Between September 18 and September 20 South Korean President Moon Jae-In held talks with Kim Jong-Un in Pyongyang. Both leaders agreed to engage in economic cooperation and reduce military tension by building a buffer zone along the land and sea borders.
Both also agreed to pull out 11 guard posts from the Demilitarized Zone by December 2018 and set up a no-fly zone above the military demarcation line that divides the two Koreas which will be effective for commercial flights, helicopters, and drones. They also agreed to submit a bid to co-host the summer Olympic in 2032.
One of the most crucial points from the talks was Jong-un’s promise to create a nuclear-free, peaceful Korea Peninsula.
“We agreed to make active efforts to turn the Korean peninsula into the land of peace without nuclear weapons or nuclear threats,” Kim said.
Moon Jae-in, who was cheered during his visit to Pyongyang, urged unity and burying the hostility of the past 70 years for a better future of two Koreas.
“We had lived together for 5,000 years and have lived separately for only 70 years,” he told a crowd of more than 100,000 in Pyongyang’s May Day Stadium. “I urge all of you to end those hostilities and take a big step toward reunification,” Moon said in his speech.
Moon also added that Kim Jong-un is willing to meet the U.S. President Donald Trump to speed up denuclearization after their landmark meeting in Singapore last June.
“Chairman Kim expressed his wish that he wanted to complete denuclearisation quickly and focus on economic development,” Moon spoke in a press conference after arriving in Seoul from the summit in Py0ngyang.
How did Washington react?
In response to the Korean meeting, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo called for a second round of talks with North Korea aimed at dismantling nuclear weapons.
In a statement quoted by Bloomberg, the former CIA boss said Washington welcomes North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un’s promise to demolish a missile test site and shut down the Yongbyon nuclear reactor under the supervision of international inspectors if Washington accepts what North Korea calls as “corresponding measures.”
“On the basis of these important commitments, the United States is prepared to engage immediately in negotiations to transform U.S.-DPRK relations,” Pompeo stated, referring to North Korea by its formal name, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.
In his tweet, President Trump described the joint statement between the two Korean leaders as “very exciting.”
Experts cast doubt over North Korea’s commitment to denuclearization.
North Korea’s decision to dismantle its main missile facility in Dongchang-ri under the close supervision of international inspectors prompted Pompeo to invite his North Korean counterpart Ri Yong-ho to a meeting at the United Nations (U.N) General Assembly in New York later his month. He also invited other Pyongyang officials to talk with the nuclear envoy Stephen Biegun in the capital of Austria, Vienna. The meeting aims to complete the demolition of North Korea’s nuclear weapons by January 2021.
However, once again the joint declaration signed by Kim and Moon did not elaborate on any concrete steps toward denuclearization but focused more on reducing tension in the Korea Peninsula. Dismantling nuclear weapons may not mean a full denuclearization, as Pyongyang is willing to commit to fully disarming its nuclear arsenals only if Washington acts in “corresponding measures” by withdrawing troops from the peninsula and a peace declaration.
“When North Korea says it needs evidence that the U.S. and South Korea don’t have a hostile policy, well, which Korea invaded the other in 1950? Which Korea has committed countless acts of terror, war, threatened and killed [citizens of] the other Korea?” Bruce Klingner, senior research fellow at the Heritage Foundation, said.
Any agreements or concessions whatsoever does not guarantee that North Korea will stop producing nuclear weapons or terminate its nuclear programs.
“The world needs to remember that North Korea has other nuclear and missile facilities, and that these concessions will not necessarily limit or end their nuclear or missile programs,” said Melissa Hanham, a senior research associate at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey.
Moon Jae-in is set to meet Trump this Monday to discuss the outcome of the Pyongyang talks. A senior South Korean diplomat said that despite the rocky process, Seoul is optimistic about a peaceful Korean Peninsula with the support of the U.S. and the U.N.