North Korea leader Kim Jong-un and South Korean President Moon Jae-in have agreed to a summit on April 27. The summit will be held at Panmunjom village which sits in a demilitarized zone between the two Koreas. The meeting is not only historic; it is only the third time talks between North and South Korea have ever taken place, but it carries world- changing significance.
Analysts watching the events unfold in the Korean peninsula believe the outcome of the summit may determine whether the proposed meeting with United States President Donald J. Trump will push through.
Although President Trump said he would be available to meet with Kim in May, no confirmation has been given on the final date and venue.
Kim also made a surprise visit to China to meet with President Xi Jinping. China has been a key ally of North Korea but relations were strained due to Beijing’s imposition of UN economic sanctions. However, it was reported by Chinese media that President Xi had accepted Kim’s invitation to visit North Korea.
The path to the summit was paved by President Moon who invited North Korea to participate in the Winter Olympics. Since then relations between the two Koreas appeared to have thawed. Official representatives from both sides visited the other’s country and progressively moved toward the establishment of the summit.
Christopher Green who is the Senior Adviser for the Korean peninsula for Crisis Group believes that the objectives of the summit include restoring peace in the peninsula and to lift economic sanctions levied on North Korea:
“If there is reasonable chance of talks with the U.S. going ahead, that will help the inter- Korean summit go well because the North Korean side will want to show a convivial side.”
Cheng Xiaohe, Associate Professor at Renmin University thinks it will take more than one meeting to resolve the issues between the two Koreas but it is certainly a welcome start:
“If everything goes smoothly, there will be following rounds of two- party, three- party or four- party summits. No one expects the Korean peninsula issue to be settled by one or two rounds of summits. There’s a long way to go. But the overall trend is positive.”
At Beijing, the Xinhua news agency reported that Kim reiterated his pledge to denuclearize North Korea on the condition that the United States and South Korea take “progressive and synchronous measures for the realization of peace.”
However Douglas Paal who heads the Asia program at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace expressed caution at Kim’s statement:
“The Kim statement on denuclearization came with preconditions that sound very similar to the preconditions that cause previous talks to fail. It may be Kim’s definition of the preconditions has changed, but that understanding can only come through care negotiations. We should take his statement seriously, but with considerable scepticism.”