Korean summit boosts hope

By Liu Xin and Ding Jieyun in Seoul Source:Global Times Published: 2018/4/26 20:48:40

US should help carry on momentum: analyst

'Pro-peace' activists hold up a sign showing South Korean President Moon Jae-in and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, with a slogan, 'Peace New Start,' during a rally outside the presidential Blue House in Seoul on Thursday. Photo: AFP

The denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula and establishment of permanent peace will top the agenda of the inter-Korean summit, a senior South Korean official said on Thursday, as many experts and South Koreans expressed optimism.

South Korean President Moon Jae-in and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un will begin their historic first meeting at the military demarcation line in Panmunjom at around 9:30 Friday morning, Yonghap News quoted Moon's chief of staff Im Jong-seok as saying on Thursday.

The Moon-Kim meeting on Friday marks the third inter-Korean summit, but the first to be held in the border village of Panmunjom on the South Korean side. The two previous summits, in 2000 and 2007, were both held in Pyongyang.

"Panmunjom symbolizes the division and military confrontation on the Korean Peninsula … the focus [of the summit] will be to lay the foundation for denuclearization and achieving peace on the peninsula, as well as progress in inter-Korean relations," according to materials from the 2018 Inter-Korean Summit Preparation Committee.

Im said "the difficult part is how high an agreement the two leaders may reach and how such an agreement can be implemented."

The two leaders were planning to lay a marker that reads, "Here we plant peace and prosperity," Im said.

High expectations

Many South Korean experts and Seoul residents reached by the Global Times expressed optimism toward the summit.

Lee Hee-ok, director of the Department of Political Science at SungKyun Kwan University, that "it is highly possible that the two leaders could reach a consensus on denuclearization."

Lü Chao, a research fellow on North Korea at the Liaoning Academy of Social Sciences, told the Global Times that "the environment for resolving the Korean Peninsula issue is never better than the current one. And instead throwing cold water, the international community, especially the US and some Western countries, should help carry on the momentum."

Lü also said that the international community should not expect all obstacles to denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula to be settled. "The importance of Friday's meeting lies in laying the foundation for future talks," he said.

What must be settled is a process for a complete, verifiable and irreversible denuclearization and how to guarantee that the North sticks to it, Lee said.

North Korea is now focusing on economic development, which makes Lee believe that North Korea is not using the summit to avoid UN sanctions.

Lee Sanghoon, a 28-year-old student in Seoul, told the Global Times that the summit would benefit South Korea's economy. "The stock prices in South Korea fell sharply and foreign investors left after North Korea's previous nuclear tests. But the summit may bring a stable environment for economic development."

However, experts warned that conservative political groups in South Korea, who are skeptical of the summit, may be the X factor.

Lee Sangman, a professor at KungNam University's Institute of Eastern Studies, told the Global Times that because the majority of South Koreans support the Moon government, conservative groups may not be a factor.

'Peace, a new start!'

Nine of Kim's key aides, consisting of senior party, military and government officials including Kim Yong-nam, the nominal head of state, and Kim Yo-jong, Kim's younger sister, will accompany him on his trip to Panmunjom on Friday, Im said.

The South Korean delegation includes the chairman of the joint chiefs of staff, the national security adviser, unification minister, foreign minister and defense minister.

Global Times reporters saw a group of cars pass over the Unification Bridge. A South Korean official said that the South Korean delegation would go through the bridge to Panmunjom on Friday.

Banners and flags with a map of the Korean Peninsula printed on them lined the road to the bridge with the slogan, "Welcome to the Inter-Korean Summit, realize peace and cooperation of the Korean Peninsula!" and "Peace, a new start!"

Zhao Juecheng contributed to the story


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