A ‘nuclear’ summit

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A ‘nuclear’ summit

President Moon Jae-in briefed leaders of the ruling and opposition parties in the Blue House on the South Korean delegation’s recent trip to North Korea. While expressing modest expectations for an upcoming summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, Moon underscored that it will be held in the framework of international sanctions. “No doubt our goal is denuclearization, not a freeze,” he stressed.

His remarks are aimed at easing some suspicions that his liberal administration may seek a nuclear freeze rather than denuclearization of North Korea. The president showed the realistic recognition that the inter-Korean relationship can only improve when there is tangible progress on the nuclear issue. The opposition must cooperate in a bipartisan manner with his effort to link denuclearization to improved ties between Seoul and Pyongyang.

But many stumbling blocks lie ahead. As Moon said, success of the summit scheduled for April rests on dialogue between the United States and North Korea, which is expected to take place earlier. Despite Kim Jong-un mentioning denuclearization, North Korea’s mouthpiece the Rodong Sinmun made us doubt his words by arguing that North Korea’s possession of nuclear weapons should not be a matter of dispute. If Pyongyang reiterates its earlier demand for dismantlement of the South-U.S. alliance and a withdrawl of U.S. Forces from Korea in a meeting with Washington — instead of a complete, verifiable and irreversible dismantlement of its nuclear weapons program — the talks will be in vain.

Our government must tell North Korea that an inter-Korean summit will be equally in vain unless it clearly defines what denuclearization really means in its meeting with the United States. If Pyongyang and Washington can find a breakthrough in denuclearizing North Korea, it will help the April inter-Korean summit to deliver some achievements. If not, the summit should not be held.

Moon must remember that agreements reached at two previous inter-Korean summits were all thrown away. South Korea offered economic assistance to North Korea in return for a summit, but no advances were made in denuclearization. Moon should dub it a “nuclear summit” and demand from North Korea that it make substantial progress in denuclearization.

Close cooperation with Uncle Sam is a must. Fortunately, Chung Eui-young, head of the National Security Office, visits Washington today to give a briefing on his delegation’s trip to Pyongygang. We hope both allies approach peace on the Korean Peninsula with synchronous strategies.

JoongAng Ilbo, Mar. 8, Page 30
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