Koreas agree to hold Kim-Moon summit in Pyongyang next month

AFP
The DPRK and South Korea agreed yesterday to hold a summit in Pyongyang in September following high-level talks in the Demilitarized Zone that divides the peninsula.
AFP

The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea and South Korea agreed yesterday to hold a summit in Pyongyang in September following high-level talks in the Demilitarized Zone that divides the peninsula.

The two sides “agreed at the meeting to hold a South-North summit in Pyongyang in September as planned,” the joint statement said, without giving a precise date.

A trip by South Korean President Moon Jae-in to the DPRK’s capital would be the first such visit for more than a decade, as the diplomatic thaw on and around the peninsula builds.

But despite the rapprochement, international sanctions on the DPRK for its nuclear and missile programs have kept economic cooperation between the two sides from taking off.

“The September summit can be viewed as the DPRK’s strategy to find a breakthrough in its stalled talks with the US,” said Asan Institute of Policy Studies analyst Go Myong-hyun. “For South Korea, President Moon wants to improve inter-Korean ties but that’s hard without progress in US-DPRK talks.”

At the historic first summit between Moon and the DPRK’s leader Kim Jong Un in Panmunjom in April they agreed Moon would visit Pyongyang during the autumn.

The first South Korean president to go to the DPRK capital was Kim Dae-jung, who met the current leader’s father and predecessor Kim Jong Il in 2000 and later won the Nobel Peace Prize, in part for his efforts at inter-Korean reconciliation.

Pyongyang saw a second inter-Korean summit in 2007, when Roh Moo-hyun also met Kim Jong Il.

But relations subsequently soured as the DPRK accelerated its pursuit of nuclear weapons and South Korea elected conservative governments.

Yesterday’s high-level talks, taking place on the northern side of the truce village in the DMZ, were proposed by the DPRK last week as it lashed out at Washington for pushing ahead with sanctions.

Afterward the DPRK’s chief delegate Ri Son Gwon said the meeting had gone well and the date for the summit was “ready,” but not announced as “reporting would be more fun when reporters are curious.”

Earlier he used a proverb describing a very intimate friend to refer to inter-Korean ties, saying: “We have opened an era where we are advancing hand in hand rather than standing in each other’s way.”

The summit would probably be held after the 70th anniversary of the DPRK’s foundation on September 9, South Korea’s presidential office suggested.

“It would be difficult in early September, which means until September 10,” Moon’s spokesman Kim Eui-kyeom told reporters, citing a “reason all reporters can guess.”

Pyongyang has previously lavishly celebrated the occasion with military parades or mass games involving thousands of people performing acrobatic choreography in unison, and is expected this time to hold its first mass games for five years, boosting tourism revenues.

The rapid rapprochement between the two neighbors began this year ahead of the Winter Olympics in South Korea and paved the way for a landmark meeting between Kim and US President Donald Trump in Singapore in June.

Cross-border exchanges between the Koreas have significantly increased since then, with the neighbors planning to hold reunions for war-separated families next week for the first time in three years.

Experts say Moon could try to mediate between the US and the DPRK, having salvaged the Singapore meeting when Trump abruptly canceled it. “They are trying to send a message externally that the North-South dialogue momentum has been established and that it will be maintained regardless of the outcome of US-DPRK talks,” said analyst Go.


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