Korean President Moon Jae-in said on Wednesday that the upcoming inter-Korean and North Korea-U.S. summits could lead to a three-way summit among the two Koreas and the United States, depending on the outcomes of the bilateral summits. Moon made the remarks at a meeting of Seoul’s preparation committee for the upcoming inter-Korean dialogue, saying, “We must completely resolve the issues of denuclearizing the Korean Peninsula and establishing peace through these upcoming talks and others that will follow.” An official at the presidential office Cheong Wa Dae explained that the president meant to propose and seek a three-way summit. The preparation committee decided to propose holding high-level dialogue with North Korea at the joint security area of Panmunjom next Thursday to discuss details of the upcoming inter-Korean summit.
President Moon’s remarks appear to be an expression of his hope for or confidence in resolving the Korean Peninsula issues of achieving denuclearization and a peace regime at one stroke through the possible three-way summit following the inter-Korean and the North Korea-U.S. summits. As South Korea has seized a rare opportunity with the Pyongyang-Washington summit brokered by Seoul, Moon expressed his will to use the chance to resolve the difficult issues at one stroke as if severing the Gordian Knot. He also said that the possible three-way summit could “become even more dramatic, depending on the venue.” The remarks can be interpreted as his expectation that if the North Korea-U.S. summit is held at Panmunjom, where the inter-Korean summit is to take place, the talks could naturally lead to a three-way summit, which Moon would join.
“We have clear plans and a clear vision of goals we seek to achieve through an agreement among the leaders of the South, North and the United States," Moon said, asking the summit preparation committee to “boldly” prepare a strategy to achieve the goals. It was an expression of his will to jump over the inter-Korean relations soured during the former nine-year conservative administrations by restoring and inheriting the joint declaration resulting from the 2007 inter-Korean summit. As the joint declaration specifies the issue of the leaders of three to four countries that are parties to the Korean War meeting on the peninsula to declare an official end of the conflict, the Seoul-Pyongyang-Washington summit could announce the “end of the war.” We cannot help but become curious to see if the South Korean government can turn its diplomacy into the “art of possibility.”
Considering the latest developments surrounding the peninsula, President Moon’s ideas may not be an unreasonable desire. However, each of his visions on the denuclearization, a peace regime, and the normalization of North Korea-U.S. relations involves conundrums accumulated for seven decades of the Cold War order and has to overcome numerous controversies and hurdles until it is accomplished. If one issue goes wrong or if any of the neighboring countries opposes or ignores it, the whole picture could be ruined. A big picture can only build a sand castle. There is one month left before the summit season. Seoul should prepare boldly but thoroughly, and quickly but cool-headedly.