South Korean President Moon Jae-in will visit Pyongyang this morning and have two meetings with his North Korean counterpart. The first meeting will be held this afternoon and the second meeting will begin Wednesday morning. Aside from the official meetings, the two leaders will spend time together for the next three days, having meals together for four times. I hope the two leaders will have candid talks based on a deep mutual understanding developed during their previous meetings on April 27 and May 26 this year.
The agendas for the inter-Korean summit were announced Monday: They are improvement of inter-Korean relations, denuclearization, and ease of military tensions. Unlike regular summits, where key agendas are usually discussed on a working level, the two sides have yet to come to an agreement on the most important agenda of the summit, denuclearization. The result of the summit will vary depending on how much straightforward conversation the two leaders have.
The fundamental reason behind the stalled denuclearization process is North Korea’s lack of sincerity in denuclearization. Therefore, Moon needs to have Kim Jong Un to officially declare the "completion of denuclearization within two years." The North Korean leader reportedly told the South Korean special envoy early this month that he would complete denuclearization within two years. Kim was quoted as saying that he told Moon in April that he would finish denuclearization within a year, but he has never made a commitment to denuclearize or set a timeline in public.
In addition, as the South Korean delegation is taking 200 people with them to North Korea, it should be cautious not to turn the summit into a one-time event and prevent those people from making uncontrolled comments. The head of the Korean Confederation of Trade Unions has already made a loud boast that he would urge to relieve sanctions against North Korea and dismantle THAAD during his visit to the North. This kind of behavior could give wrong signal to the North. To be sure, the completion of denuclearization would open new horizons for the North Korean economy. But the South Korean government should make it clear that there is nothing South Korean businesses can do without denuclearization of North Korea due to international sanctions by both the United Nations and the United States.
In a meeting with his top aides Monday, President Moon said he would seek to obtain “irreversible and lasting peace” and will focus on “removing the tension and possibility of armed conflicts caused by the military confrontation between the two Koreas.” A lasting peace is what all Koreans wish for. But no matter how much the two Koreas work to ease the tensions on the Korean Peninsula, it would be of no use if the North Korean nuclear issue is not resolved. The biggest mission in this visit to Pyongyang and the way to bring a lasting peace on the Korean Peninsula is to have Kim Jong Un make a commitment to complete denuclearization, including timelines and concrete methods of denuclearization.