Risks of a declarationA five-member delegation led by South Korea’s national security adviser, Chung Eui-yong, returned after meeting with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un and other high-ranking officials in Pyongyang. One of the most remarkable achievements from their second trip to the North Korean capital was reaffirmation of Kim’s will to denuclearize. The two Koreas are expected to hammer out realistic solutions for denuclearization during a third summit between President Moon Jae-in and Kim from Sept. 18 to 20. The two leaders will also discuss ways to achieve permanent peace and co-prosperity.
In a briefing on Thursday, Chung said that Kim made clear his willingness to denuclearize. Chung also said that Kim underscored that North Korea had put concrete measures into action by irreversibly destroying two thirds of the underground tunnels at the Punggye-ri nuclear test site. A nuclear test is impossible as a result, Kim said, according to Chung. Chung also said Kim expressed disappointment with the international community’s lack of appreciation for his denuclearization efforts, and called for a declaration to formally end the 1950-53 Korean War — which technically concluded with an armistice rather than a peace treaty — based on the principle of tit for tat.
South Koreans want to see denuclearization, and they are frustrated at the slow pace of progress. Many expected the North to carry out denuclearization steps more quickly after the inter-Korean summit in April and North-U.S. summit in June. North Korea was expected to draw up a list of its nuclear weapons and take action to denuclearize with international verification.
But North Korea dismantled the Punggye-ri test site without inviting nuclear scientists from abroad to verify its authenticity. Kim called it a “pre-emptive denuclearization process,” but it falls way short of most people’s expectations. Moreover, North Korea could continue developing nuclear weapons without test sites.
Pyongyang’s demand is for a declaration to end the war. Although it would be a mere political declaration, it could have the effect of shaking our traditional alliance with the United States. If the two Koreas rush into some kind of declaration, we would have to stop our joint drills with America. The United States would also have less ground for sending so-called strategic assets to the Korean Peninsula in times of crisis. If North Korea moves toward denuclearization at a snail’s pace, the two Koreas cannot get closer to peace. Moon must persuade Kim to speed up his denuclearization.
JoongAng Ilbo, Sept. 7, Page 30