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South-North summit to set denuclearization of N. Korea in motion

2018/04/16 11:01

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SEOUL, April 16 (Yonhap) -- The upcoming summit between South Korean President Moon Jae-in and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un will be a historical event all in itself and even more so as it will likely set the tone for the following U.S.-North Korea summit, which in turn could finally get the process of denuclearizing the communist state moving forward.

The Moon-Kim meeting is set to be held on April 27. It will mark the third inter-Korean summit following the top-level meetings held in 2000 and 2007.

The Moon-Kim summit was arranged at a time when people least expected it.

Tensions between the two Koreas seemed to find a new peak each month even before the Moon Jae-in administration came into office in May 2017 as Pyongyang continued to advance its nuclear and missile capabilities despite years of international sanctions.

The communist state staged nearly a dozen missile launches in less than seven months after Moon's inauguration, while also conducting its sixth and most powerful nuclear test so far in September.

Washington and its allies responded with what they called "maximum" sanctions and pressure. Seoul joined the efforts to tame the provocative North but insisted that the ultimate objective of sanctions and pressure must be to bring the North back to negotiations on ending its nuclear ambitions.

North Korea responded after months or years of confrontation, agreeing to take part in the PyeongChang Winter Olympic Games held earlier this year in South Korea. Discussions on the North's Olympic participation quickly evolved into rapprochement to the point where the countries' leaders exchanged special envoys.

Moon's special envoy Chung Eui-yong held an unprecedented meeting with the reclusive North Korean leader in Pyongyang on March 5. There, Kim agreed to meet the South Korean leader, as well as U.S. President Donald Trump, also saying his country will be willing to give up its nuclear weapons in exchange for a security guarantee.

The U.S. president has agreed to meet Kim in May or early June.

The Moon-Kim meeting will not only be a prelude to the first-ever U.S.-North Korea summit, but it will likely create the foundation for any progress at the Trump-Kim meeting.

This photo taken on April 11, 2018, shows President Moon Jae-in (second from R) speaking during a meeting of the preparation committee for his upcoming summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un. (Yonhap) This photo taken on April 11, 2018, shows President Moon Jae-in (second from R) speaking during a meeting of the preparation committee for his upcoming summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un. (Yonhap)

"We must successfully hold the South-North summit so it will also lead to the success of the North-U.S. summit," President Moon said while meeting with a group of advisers on Thursday.

The president himself has noted his meeting with Kim will mark the start of efforts to denuclearize the North, though certainly not the end.

"We are standing at the starting line of a long journey toward peace and prosperity on the Korean Peninsula. We are about to embark on a great transition of complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula, lasting peace and sustainable development of South-North Korean relations in the history of the world," he said earlier.

The two Koreas have already agreed to include the denuclearization issue on the agenda for the meting of their leaders, along with a reduction of military tensions on the Korean Peninsula and improvement in inter-Korean relations, officials from the presidential office Cheong Wa Dae said earlier.

It will mark the first time in history for the denuclearization issue to be included in inter-Korean dialogue, let alone at a summit, they noted.

"That itself shows that the North understands it needs to first sort things out with the South before it can reach an actual deal with the U.S.," a Cheong Wa Dae official said, noting that the North long insisted on talking directly and only with the U.S. when it came to nuclear and security issues.

While the previous inter-Korean summits were held in Pyongyang, the April 27 summit is set to be held on the South Korean side of the joint security area inside the demilitarized zone that divides the two Koreas.

If held as planned, the summit will make Kim the first North Korean leader to step on South Korean soil since the end of the 1950-53 Korean War.

bdk@yna.co.kr

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