Moon Under Pressure to Find Breakthrough in Denuclearization Talks

  • By Jeong Woo-sang

    September 18, 2018 12:37

    President Moon Jae-in is under tremendous international pressure to find a breakthrough in denuclearization talks between the U.S. and North Korea as he visits Pyongyang for three days.

    It will be his third summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un already this year. They are also expected to discuss improving cross-border relations, economic cooperation, and ways to prevent military clashes, but denuclearization is by far the hottest topic.

    According to Cheong Wa Dae, Kim already promised to denuclearize within U.S. President Donald Trump's first term when he met senior officials from South Korea on Sept. 5.

    But at the same meeting he also complained that he is not being given enough credit for the steps he has already taken, chiefly blowing up a nuclear test site that was by all accounts no longer usable anyway.

    The two Korean leaders and their wives walk together at Sunan International Airport in Pyongyang in this video grab on Tuesday. /Newsis

    The question is now whether Moon can persuade Kim to make any more concrete commitments like handing over of a list of nuclear stockpiles, or broker a second summit between the U.S. and the North.

    On Monday, Moon told senior aides at Cheong Wa Dae, "I'm going to have candid talks with Kim to find common ground between Washington's demand for denuclearization measures and Pyongyang's demand for an end to hostile relations and for security guarantees."

    But presidential chief of staff Im Jong-seok said, "Everything -- whether there will be an agreement in denuclearization -- is still unknown. We expect some progress in denuclearization, but in a very limited way."

    President Moon Jae-in (left) and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un wave as their car drives through Pyongyang on Tuesday. /Yonhap

    North Korea wants a formal declaration ending the Korean War first. Moon said, "Building a permanent peace framework is a way for the two Koreas to resolve issues without being swayed by international politics, and to move toward economic co-prosperity and national unification."

    The two Koreas are more optimistic about reaching agreement on building a "peace zone" around the Northern Limit Line, the de facto maritime border in the West Sea that was drawn up unilaterally by the Western powers and runs uncomfortably close to the North Korean shore, as well as withdrawing guard posts from the demilitarized zone and banning firearms from the Joint Security Area in Panmunjom.

    Moon and Kim are expected to give a joint press conference on Wednesday.

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