Moon’s challengesIn Monday’s high-level meeting in Panmunjom, South and North Korea agreed to hold a third summit between President Moon Jae-in and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un in Pyongyang in September. Despite some progress in fixing the time for a summit, the results of the talks in Panmunjom fell way short of our expectations.
Circumstantial evidence suggests a gap between the two countries over the purpose of the summit. Many of the North Korean representatives were high officials handling economic cooperation involving infrastructure, including railways and roads. But their South Korean counterparts were more focused on setting a political agenda for the summit, as seen in the participation of a deputy minister of unification and a senior official from the National Security Office. The difference in the composition of representatives signified a big gap in approaches to the summit.
It is too early to be disappointed about the results of the meeting. On such thorny issues as denuclearization, you can hardly expect easy solutions soon. As North Korea is a master of strategically dragging its feet in inter-Korean negotiations, the South Korean government must have patience.
Despite a failure to settle a date for summit, North Korea seems to have already fixed it, as seen in the remarks by Ri Son-gwon, chairman of the Committee for the Peaceful Reunification of the Country of the DPRK. “The date for summit is already fixed,” he said. Therefore, the Moon Jae-in administration does not have to rush it. Instead, it must approach things calmly.
North Korea is engaging in a war of nerves with the United States. The North is demanding a formal end to the 1950-53 Korean War and acceleration of economic exchanges. Uncle Sam is urging Pyongyang to denuclearize first. North Korea is warning South Korea not to take sides with the United States, pressuring it to resume operations of the Kaesong Industrial Complex and Mount Kumgang tours.
To break the deadlock, the three countries must take a step back. President Moon has the responsibility to help address the deep distrust between Pyongyang and Washington and declare an end to the war based on denuclearization. The government must not rush to a declaration if it does not want a rupture in the alliance. It must find an appropriate role with prudence, not impatience.
JoongAng Ilbo, Aug. 14, Page 30