South Korean President Moon Jae-in began his third summit with leader of Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) Kim Jong Un on Tuesday with possibly his hardest mission to date — brokering some kind of compromise to keep DRPK’s talks with Washington from imploding and pushing ahead with his own plans to expand economic cooperation and bring a stable peace to the Korean Peninsula.
CGTN’s Shane Hahm reports.
Kim gave the South Korean president an exceedingly warm welcome, meeting him and his wife at Pyongyang’s airport — itself a very unusual gesture — then riding into town with Moon in an open limousine through streets lined with crowds of DPRK people, who cheered and waved the flag of their country and a blue-and-white flag that symbolizes Korean unity.
Hours after his arrival, Moon began an official summit with Kim at the ruling Workers’ Party headquarters. The two were joined by two of their top deputies — South Korean intelligence chief Suh Hoon and presidential security director Chung Eui-yong for Moon, and Kim Jong Un’s sister, Kim Yo Jong, and senior Workers’ Party official Kim Yong Chol for the DPRK’s leader, according to Moon’s office.
At the start of their meeting, Kim thanked Moon for brokering a June summit with U.S. President Donald Trump.
“It’s not too much to say that it’s Moon’s efforts that arranged a historic DPRK-U.S. summit. Because of that, the regional political situation has been stabilized and more progress on DRPK-U.S. ties is expected,” Kim said, according to South Korean media pool reports and Moon’s office.
Moon responded by expressing his own thanks to Kim for making a “bold decision” in a New Year’s speech to open a new era of detente and send a delegation to the South Korean Winter Olympics in February.
The results of the talks weren’t immediately available. Seoul officials earlier said they would focus on how to achieve denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula, decrease military tensions along their border and improve overall ties. The North’s media said the talks would reaffirm their commitment to Korean peace, unity and prosperity.
During a conversation at the Paekhwawon guest house where Moon was to stay, Kim said DPRK people hope diplomacy will yield positive results. “I think it was our people’s wish that we come up with good results as fast as we can,” Kim said, according to the media pool reports.
Moon responded that “Our hearts are fluttering, but at the same we have heavy hearts,” and added, “We have built trust and friendship between us, so I think all will be well.”
The two are to meet again on Wednesday.
More than in their previous encounters, when the mere fact of meeting and resuming a dialogue was seen as a major step forward, Moon is under pressure to leave Thursday with some concrete accomplishments.
One of Moon’s objectives — and one that also interests Kim — was clear from the people he took with him. Traveling on Moon’s government jet was Samsung scion Lee Jae-yong and other business leaders, underscoring Moon’s hopes to expand cross-border business projects. Currently, however, all major joint projects between the Koreas are stalled because of U.S.-led sanctions.
But the nuclear issue was sure to cast a shadow over negotiations on joint projects.
Before leaving Seoul, Moon vowed to push for “irreversible, permanent peace” and for better dialogue between Pyongyang and Washington.
“This summit would be very meaningful if it yielded a resumption of DPRK-U.S. talks,” Moon said Tuesday just before his departure. “It’s very important for South and DPRK to meet frequently, and we are turning to a phase where we can meet anytime we want.”
South Korea last week opened a liaison office in the North’s city of Kaesong, near the Demilitarized Zone. Another possible area of agreement could be on a formal statement on ending the Korean War, which was halted in 1953 by what was intended to be a temporary armistice. Military officials have discussed possibly disarming a jointly controlled area at the Koreas’ shared border village, removing front-line guard posts and halting hostile acts along their sea boundary.
Moon is the third South Korean leader to visit DPRK’s capital for summits, but the first since 2007.