Moon, Kim embrace in Pyongyang at start of inter-Korean summit
Kim personally greeted the president, as expected by the Blue House, at the airport accompanied by his wife Ri Sol-ju.
Moon and Kim hugged while their wives shook hands with big smiles. The greeting unfolded as music was played by a North Korean military honor guard.
Kim Yo-jong, the younger sister of Kim Jong-un, was also on hand to welcome the visitors from the South.
Cheering North Korean crowds waved North Korean flags and flags of the Korean Peninsula at the airport in the same manner that they had welcomed two previous South Korean presidents attending inter-Korean summits in Pyongyang in 2000 and 2007.
A welcome banner at the airport read, “We wholeheartedly welcome President Moon Jae-in’s visit to Pyongyang.”
North Korean Foreign Minister Ri Yong-ho and Kim Yong-nam, the nominal head of state who serves as president of the Presidium of the Supreme People’s Assembly, were also at the airport.
After the greeting, Moon inspected the North’s military honor guard in the same way North Korean leader Kim did on April 27 at the border village of Panmunjom, where the first Moon-Kim summit took place.
It was the first time in 11 years for a South Korean president to set foot in Pyongyang. In 2007, former President Roh Moo-hyun crossed the border on foot and went to the city by car. Moon, who was Roh’s chief of staff at the time, stayed in Seoul to monitor the summit.
In 2000, former President Kim Dae-jung flew to Pyongyang via the same flight route taken by Moon today for the historic first inter-Korean summit.
Moon will have a first round of summit talks with North Korean leader Kim after a luncheon, The two leaders are expected to have at least two rounds of summit talks during Moon’s three-day stay in the North Korean capital.
The big question is whether Moon will succeed in improving the atmosphere for North Korea-U.S. denuclearization talks as some kind of mediator.
Pyongyang has demanded some form of regime security from Washington, such as declaring a formal end to the 1950-53 Korean War in exchange for denuclearization steps, while Washington has called for the North to take practical denuclearization steps first, such as submitting a complete list of nuclear weapons and nuclear-related facilities in the country.
“Because this is not an issue that could be resolved by us taking the lead, I will have frank discussions with North Korean leader Kim on finding a middle point between the North’s demand for ending hostile relations with the U.S. and regime security and the U.S.’s demand for denuclearization steps,” Moon said on Monday.
BY KANG JIN-KYU [email@example.com]