As North Korean leader Kim Jong Un invited South Korean President Moon Jae-in to Pyongyang, the South Korean government has become busy working with follow-up measures. The invitation has been delivered by Kim Yo Jong, the younger sister of Kim Jong Un. As President Moon replied, "Let's create conditions to make it happen," South Korea should closely coordinate with the United States and neighboring countries as well as North Korea to create conditions for the third inter-Korean summit. Some names are already being mentioned for special envoys since there have been increasing voices in and outside the ruling party that President Moon needs to send high-ranking special envoys to North Korea.
Sending special envoys to North Korea will be a courteous gesture and can be an important opportunity to establish peace on the Korean Peninsula after the PyeongChang Olympics. But if the South Korean government rush into it, it could be used for North Korea’s propaganda. This is why complete preparation and strategies have to be preceded before the inter-Korean summit actually takes place.
First of all, close communication and coordination of polices with the United States should come first. South Korea should not be hasty. The South-North Korea relations and the North Korea-U.S. relations cannot be separated. The United States is not opposed to having conversation. It would be impossible to satisfy the United States one-hundred percent, but there should not be misunderstanding and mistrust. The South Korean government said it would “inform the Unite States of every detail of the conversation between the two Koreas so that the United States could get annoyed.” When the details are shared completely, the South Korean government should set a common goal, minimum conditions for dialogue and discuss roles of the United States and South Korea. A special envoy to North Korea should serve both as a representative of President Moon and a messenger of the United States.
Secondly, the key agenda of the inter-Korean summit needs to be denuclearization of North Korea. The special envoy should deliver the message clearly that North Korea cannot escape from the international sanctions and pressure and expect any improvement in inter-Korean relations without giving up its nuclear weapons. Although President Moon indirectly urged Kim Yo Jong and her delegation to abandon nuclear weapons by mentioning the need for early dialogue between North Korea and the United States, a special envoy should be able to talk about the future of North Korea with a clear message. This will put Kim Jong Un under pressure and make him at least promise to put the issue of denuclearization on the negotiating table. After that, we can expect further achievement through summit consultation.
Thirdly, we should not let the talk of special envoy and inter-Korean summit be a hostage to delaying sanctions and pressure against North Korea. The intention behind North Korea’s appeasement policy toward South Korea is obviously buying time for the completion of its nuclear weapons. We should not be fooled by the North’s same tactic. In particular, the North is demanding a complete cancellation of ROK-US joint military exercises, which have been delayed until after the Winter Olympics finishes. Annual defensive training exercises should not be the subject of negotiation. In addition, Seoul will lose confidence from the international community by easing pressure against Pyongyang without the reclusive regime expressing its willingness to give up nuclear weapons.
Lastly, but not leastly, South Korea’s special envoy should be someone who can represent President Moon’s thoughts and mind, and also solemnly deliver the message from the international community to the North Korean leader. It is inappropriate for a chief of the National Intelligence Service, who is responsible for national security, to negotiate with North Korea, which was happened in the past. There are only a month and a half until the Olympic Truce for the PyeongChang 2018 adopted by the United Nations ends on March 25. The situation on the Korean Peninsula still remains unpredictable after that.