The thawing of tensions between North and South Korea continues after the two countries agreed to hold a new summit in Pyongyang next month. This will be the third time that South Korean President Moon Jae-in and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un meet in person to follow on from recent pledges to forge closer ties.
There has not been an official date set for the latest summit or any details divulged about what exactly will be on the agenda. However, the two leaders should discuss a range of topics and issues, including the Panmunjom Declaration, an agreement that could finally end the Korean War, and the North’s denuclearization efforts.
‘What’s very important is that both governments do all they ought to do regarding progressing all the issues on the agenda,’ North Korea’s Committee for Peaceful Reunification Chairman, Ri Son Gwon, said. ‘If the issues that were raised in the inter-Korea talks and individual meetings are not resolved, then unexpected problems could arise, and all the items on the agenda could meet obstacles.’
Kim Jong Un and Moon Jae-in first met in April in a surprise meeting on the back of a successful Winter Olympics. During that summit, both agreed to push for a formal conclusion to the Korean War with the help of the United States, though the latter has insisted that the North’s abandonment of its nuclear program must come first.
There have been certain doubts about North Korea’s commitment in recent weeks and a struggle to determine the exact measures required to support denuclearization. Kim vowed earlier in the summer to begin the process of achieving that end goal during a summit with US President Donald Trump in Singapore.
US officials have told Reuters that a timeline is still not in place and that both parties are yet to agree on how the North will dispose of its nuclear arsenal, which contains between 30 and 60 warheads. This is likely to be one of the talking points in September.
While peaceful reunification is still very much on the agenda, North Korea is still upset about a case involving 12 restaurant workers from the country, whom it claims South Korea abducted. The North wants the return of the dozen workers, and the current impasse is creating an obstacle to the potential reunion of families split during the Korean War of the early 1950s.
South Korea Unification Minister Cho Myoung-gyon did not confirm whether the North had spoken about the case on Monday, though he added that new issues have come to light. He said: ‘There were mentions that if there are problems to be resolved by both sides, on humanitarian issues or for the development of inter-Korean relations, we should do it.”
The North’s state media also accused the South of prioritizing its relationship with the United States and failing to take practical steps to boost cooperation between the two Korean countries.
While inter-Korean relations are likely to take precedence next month, the Trump administration hopes that there will be dialogue on specific actions for the “complete denuclearization” of the Korean Peninsula. Senior diplomatic sources in the US media have recently claimed that Pyongyang has rejected denuclearization proposals from Washington and deemed them “gangster-like”. US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has called for patience and said that the North has not tested weapons for ten months.
Cho Myoung-gyon said that the subject came up during initial talks on Monday. He added: “We explained that we need to help North Korea-US talks progress quickly and that there needs to be an establishment of dynamic where the inter-Korean relationship and the North Korea-US relationship improves in cycles.”