For a successful summit

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For a successful summit

President Moon Jae-in and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un meet today in Panmunjom. The third inter-Korean summit carries greater than ever significance given the North’s six nuclear tests and its development of intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBM) capable of hitting the U.S. mainland. We hope both leaders do their best to find a way to prevent the Korean Peninsula from teetering on the brink of war.

The last two inter-Korean summits took place in 2000 and 2007 in Pyongyang. This one is being held in South Korea with North Korea’s consent. The North Korean leader is expected to inspect a South Korean honor guard for the first time, hinting at his sincerity about this summit. The two leaders are confronted with three major challenges: denuclearization, building a so-called permanent peace regime and improving South-North relations.

Both sides have discussed the second and third objectives and floated certain ideas, such as the removal of military outposts along the demilitarized zone, establishment of a liaison office and the holding of summits on a regular basis. But the first objective is still a blank.

Moon must make clear the principle of complete, verifiable and irreversible dismantlement (CVID) of North Korea’s weapons of mass destruction. He must tell Kim that only when denuclearization is accomplished quickly — and thoroughly — can North Korea see sanctions eased and receive economic aid. Moon also must specify Kim’s agreement on denuclearization in a joint statement after their summit. If Kim insists on ambiguity, Moon must have the courage to storm out of the meeting.

The inter-Korean summit should not serve as some sort of precursor to a U.S.-North Korea summit. If Moon wants to simply play mediator between Kim and U.S. President Donald Trump, he will become their sidekick. We hope he reaches an agreement on a concrete blueprint for denuclearization with a sense of destiny. If Moon can do that, it can help Kim and Trump lay out a denuclearization road map when they meet in May or June.

Today’s summit is being held in close coordination with the United States. Moon will have his third summit with Trump next month following an earlier meeting in Tokyo among South Korea, China and Japan.

Kim must realize this is the last chance for survival. His vow to shut down an aged nuclear test site and suspend nuclear and ICBM tests do not prove a determination for denuclearization. If Kim tries to attach unrealistic conditions as his predecessors did, he cannot gain anything. That will only help the hawks in Washington bay for stronger action.

JoongAng Ilbo, April 27, Page 34
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