North and South Korean leaders to meet for third summit despite stalemate with US
Moon Jae-in, the South Korean president, will travel to Pyongyang on September 18 for a three-day summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, his top aides confirmed on Thursday.
The announcement followed the hand delivery of a letter from Mr Moon to Kim by Chung Eui-yong, South Korea’s national security advisor, and spy chief Suh Hoon, who visited the North Korean capital on Wednesday.
The summit, the third between the two leaders since April, and the first time a leader from the South has visited the North in more than a decade, comes despite a stalemate between Washington and Pyongyang over the progress of disarmament talks.
Pyongyang wants the US to agree to formally end the Korean War, which concluded in 1953 with an armistice, not a peace deal, and reiterated its demand on its foreign ministry website this week.
Washington wants Kim to disclose his nuclear and missiles programmes and assets, and cancelled a planned trip to Pyongyang by Mike Pompeo, the US secretary of state, late last month.
With neither side willing to make the first move, Mr Moon has once again been cast in the role of mediator, with hopes pinned on the South Korean leader to reignite the faltering talks.
But with the fragile US-North Korean détente on the verge of cracking, analysts have warned against unguarded optimism over the upcoming Pyongyang summit.
“This is a protracted process but the rug can be pulled out from under it at almost any time,” Patrick Cronin, senior director at the Washington-based Centre for a New American Security, told The Telegraph.
He predicted the meeting would produce little progress towards breaking the deadlock with Washington.
“It means that South Korea is putting pressure on the US to take modest steps on denuclearisation to prevent a collapse in the diplomatic process. And it means North Korea can further erode sanctions but not yet win major investment," he said.
In a press briefing on Thursday, Mr Chung said the September 18-20 inter-Korean summit would review the deal reached by the two leaders in the border village of Panmunjom in April “to establish lasting peace and joint prosperity on the Korean Peninsula” and to find practical ways to “realise denuclearisation.”
Mr Chung, who met personally with Kim on Wednesday, said he had reconfirmed his “determination to completely denuclearise the Korean Peninsula and expressed his willingness to closely cooperate with not only South Korea but also the United States to that end.”
He said Kim’s trust in Donald Trump, the US president, remained “unchanged.” The North Korean leader has asked the South Koreans to deliver a message to him.
The report added that Kim appreciated the “fresh advance in relations between North and South” and was “pleased” with cross-border contacts, including the recent reunions between divided families.
The two countries are also expected to open a joint liaison office in the border town of Kaesong ahead of their next round of talks.
Experts continue to warn, however, that Kim’s language remains consistently vague and non-committal on giving up his nuclear weapons.
“Kim is NOT offering to unilaterally disarm, and no language of “complete” let alone “verifiable”, despite some headlines getting over their skis..” tweeted Vipin Narang, associate professor of political science at MIT.
In an earlier interview with The Telegraph, Mr Narang suggested the US should adjust its expectations over denuclearisation.
“We are pushing on the wrong door with unilateral disarmament. It isn’t going to happen so long as Kim is in power. We should be pushing on arms control and restraint, encouraging North Korea to be a responsible nuclear power instead,” he said.
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