Photo via Office of President Moon Jae-in
South Korean President Moon Jae-in made his first trip to the North Korean capital Pyongyang this week, where he convened yet another summit with leader Kim Jong-un, continuing denuclearization talks and diplomatic progress between the neighboring countries.
According to the New York Times, the two heads of state met on Wednesday, with North Korean officials and citizens lining the streets and waving flags supporting unity on the East Asian peninsula. By the end of the day, both leaders had signed a joint agreement supporting the destruction of Kim’s nuclear missile facilities, further actions towards officially ending the Korean War once and for all, as well as a plan to pursue a joint bid to host the 2032 Olympic Games.
Earlier this summer, U.S. President Donald Trump met with Kim in Singapore to discuss a path forward for international peace agreements between not only North and South Korea, but with the United States as well. As recently as January of this year, Trump took to Twitter to threaten military strikes against North Korea, notoriously referring to Kim as “Rocket Man.”
This week, the Korean leaders advanced the preliminary denuclearization agreements made in Kim and Moon’s first two meetings and Trump’s Singapore summit, with Kim promising to destroy his government’s nuclear missile facilities in Yongbyon, north of Pyongyang, under the watchful eye of external experts.
In a statement to the press after the meeting, Kim told reporters that he and Moon had “made a firm commitment to exert active efforts to make the Korean Peninsula free of nuclear weapons and nuclear threat and turn it into a land of peace.”
But while Moon’s warm reception in the North Korean capital and smiling photo opportunities have already been considered a diplomatic victory, a number of international policy experts are still uncertain as to whether facility shutdowns in Yongbyon will actually cease all nuclear production, with the Times noting that some foreign analysts suspect that Kim has other nuclear programs operating in secret.
Further, Kim said that the full extent of North Korean denuclearization is still dependent on American cooperation in the peace process, with policy experts wary that all of Kim’s demands will be met by the powers that be in D.C.
"For instance, the commitment to shutting down the Yongbyon complex is premised on reciprocal U.S. measures, which raises difficulties," Ankit Panda, editor of The Diplomat, told BBC News. "Washington will have to help move the needle here and it's unclear if the Trump administration can do that."
“Kim Jong Un has agreed to allow Nuclear inspections, subject to final negotiations, and to permanently dismantle a test site and launch pad in the presence of international experts,” Trump wrote. “In the meantime there will be no Rocket or Nuclear testing.”
In a final promise from Wednesday’s summit, Kim said that he would be travelling to South Korea in the near future, a trip that would represent its own massive step in Korean diplomatic relations, as no North Korean leader has ever set foot on the southern side of the Peninsula’s highly militarized border.
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