In Pyongyang’s courtSeoul and Pyongyang both indicated progress in discussions on inter-Korean summit talks after a special envoy met North Korean leader Kim Jong-un on Monday. “It is hard to call it a consultation or agreement, but there were results that are not disappointing,” said the Blue House, adding that details will be revealed after the envoys returned home on Tuesday. The North Korean state mouthpiece Central News Agency said the two sides have heard the opinion of South Korean President Moon Jae-in about a summit and reached a “satisfactory” agreement.
There is speculation that the two sides have coordinated the timing of the summit to either take place on June 15, the date of the first postwar inter-Korean summit meeting between then leaders Kim Dae-jung of the South and Kim Jong-il of the North, or Aug. 15, the day both Koreas celebrate liberation from Japanese colonial rule.
An inter-Korean summit can radically improve bilateral ties and provide a breakthrough in the efforts towards North Korea’s denuclearization and bringing lasting peace to the region. The question is whether Pyongyang has the will and sincerity about dismantling its weapons of mass destruction.
The regime has tested nuclear devices and missiles 12 times since the liberal government took office last May. Pyongyang took the proactive initiative of proposing summit talks to leverage an improved inter-Korean relationship against mounting international and U.S. pressure and sanctions. If peace is what it aims for with summit talks, Pyongyang must prove itself by taking concrete action towards denuclearization.
From what we have seen so far, the nuclear issue is not one that is up for debate. The state-administered newspaper Rodong Sinmun touted nuclear arms as weapons for justice on Tuesday upon reporting on South Korean delegation’s meeting with its leader. It maintains that it cannot yield its nuclear power.
Denuclearization is a national agenda that cannot be compromised. We no longer have to hold the inter-Korean summit for ceremonial and sentimental purposes. Our people are no longer moved by the “one race” slogan. The nuclear threat is more real than these emotional embraces and figurative talks about peace. Seoul must stick to the international commitment that it can hold dialogue but cannot compromise on the easing of sanctions unless Pyongyang acts toward “complete, verifiable, and irreversible” denuclearization.
The third inter-Korean summit can serve as a pivotal moment, but should not undermine international sanctions. No one will oppose a summit between the two Korean leaders to discuss lasting peace. But if no progress is made towards nuclear dismantlement during the talks, they will have been meaningless.
JoongAng Ilbo, March 7, Page 30