NATIONAL

Preparations for inter-Korean, US summits accelerate

By Choi He-suk
  • Published : Apr 4, 2018 - 16:03
  • Updated : Apr 4, 2018 - 17:56
The two Koreas are scrambling to prepare for the upcoming inter-Korean and US-North Korea summits.

The meeting between President Moon Jae-in and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un is scheduled for April 27. Kim’s meeting with US President Donald Trump is set for May.

With the critical meetings looming closer, Seoul’s inter-Korean summit preparation committee convenes for the fourth time Thursday, when the two Koreas are set to hold a working-level meeting for the summit. 

President Moon Jae-in and US President Donald Trump. Yonhap

According to Cheong Wa Dae, Seoul has been in close communication with Washington with regards to the two summits.

In seeking improved inter-Korean ties and a resolution to the North Korean nuclear issue, Seoul has taken on the role of mediator between Pyongyang and Washington.

“The bigger issue at hand is North Korea-US (talks). As the North Korean and US leaders will discuss the core issues of denuclearization and (the North Korean regime’s) guarantee of safety, (the matter) is different from the Sept. 19 Declaration,” a high-level Cheong Wa Dae official said on the condition of anonymity. The Sept. 19 Declaration refers to North Korea agreeing to give up nuclear armament programs during the six-party talks in 2005.

“(Seoul) is exchanging information with the US, and we are sharing our experience and information necessary for North Korea-US dialogue.”

The official also revealed that Seoul is in talks with Beijing and Tokyo to arrange a trilateral summit, and that the results of the inter-Korean summit would be the “core agenda” of the three-way meeting. 

Regarding the agenda of the inter-Korean summit, South Korea’s Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-wha said that the consensus in Seoul is that a flexible approach is needed to enable Moon and Kim to have a “candid and inclusive” dialogue. S

She said that denuclearization, inter-Korean relations and establishing peace will be the main agenda items of the summit.

On the subject of North Korea’s human rights violations, Kang hinted that the matter is unlikely to be discussed at the summit. 

“Dialogue must follow the agenda the two sides agreed on, so including the matter in inter-Korean talks will require more preparations by the government,” Kang said at a press conference Wednesday. 

Kang, however, emphasized that Seoul has a “firm stance” on North Korea’s human rights situation, and that the government is dedicated to working with the international community to improve conditions in the North.
North Korea, meanwhile, is engaging South Korea and the US in so-called 1.5-track meetings, while reaching out to its traditional allies.

Last month, Kim made his first overseas trip as the leader of North Korea, meeting Chinese President Xi Jinping in Beijing. He has also dispatched his top diplomats on a series of overseas missions in recent weeks.

North Korean Foreign Minister Ri Yong-ho on Tuesday met with his Chinese counterpart Wang Yi, on his way to attend a conference of the Non-Aligned Movement in Azerbaijan. From there, Ri will head to Moscow.

Ri’s meeting with Wang came less than three weeks after his meeting with Swedish Foreign Minister Margot Wallstrom. In addition, Choe Kang-il, deputy director-general for North American affairs at North Korea’s Foreign Ministry, was dispatched last month to Finland, where he met with South Korean and US representatives.

According to Chinese media reports, Ri and Wang discussed Beijing-Pyongyang relations and matters concerning denuclearization.

Following the meeting, the state-run China Central Television reported that Wang informed Ri that the leaders of the two countries had reached a consensus on denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula at their earlier meeting.

Xi and Kim met in Beijing on March 26. According to North Korea, Xi had invited Kim on an unofficial visit, following a request from Pyongyang.

The broadcaster also reported that Wang conveyed China’s support for the inter-Korean and US-North Korea summits, and praised Pyongyang’s efforts at easing tensions on the peninsula.

The broadcaster also said that Ri called for strategic communication between the two countries regarding the Korean Peninsula.

The sudden flurry of diplomatic activities by North Korea has sparked speculations of a Moscow-Pyongyang summit. Moscow, however, has denied that such a meeting is imminent,

It has also been rumored that Ri is set to visit South Korea soon after his return from Moscow. Seoul’s presidential office declined to comment on the matter.

By Choi He-suk (cheesuk@heraldcorp.com)


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