Two Koreas set to hold landmark summit

TOKYO, The leaders of the two Koreas are set to hold their landmark inter-Korean summit on Friday, their first formal talks in over 10 years.

The planned summit between South Korean President Moon Jae-in and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un will take place on the South’s side of the truce village of Panmunjom inside the heavily fortified demilitarized zone that separates the two Koreas.

The Moon-Kim meeting is expected to be followed by the first-ever US-North Korea summit. US President Donald Trump has said he will likely hold talks with Kim in May or early June. The two upcoming summits have raised expectations that the leaders will discuss North Korea’s denuclearization.

North Korea announced on April 21 that it has decided to suspend nuclear and missile tests and shut down a nuclear test site with immediate effect. Kim made the decision at the ruling Workers’ Party central committee meeting, saying, “No nuclear test and intermediate-range and inter-continental ballistic rocket test-fire are necessary for the DPRK (North Korea) now, given that the work for mounting nuclear warheads on ballistic rockets was finished,” the state-run Korean Central News Agency reported.

Although the report did not mention whether the North plans to give up its existing nuclear weapons, the announcement was welcomed by Trump and Moon.

Ahead of the summit, the two Koreas established a direct hotline between Moon and Kim on April 20, the first of its kind connecting the leaders of the two Koreas.

The direct telephone communication could ease tensions and the possibility of a military clash caused by miscalculation or misunderstanding.

Seoul and Pyongyang remain technically at war after the 1950-53 Korean War, in which the US and the UN fought with South Korea against a North Korean invasion backed by China and the former Soviet Union. After leaving up to 4 million people dead, the fierce war ended in a truce, not a peace treaty, and resulted in establishing the heavily fortified demilitarized zone. Since then, a number of attacks and clashes occurred between the two Koreas.

As recent major cases, in March 2010, the South Korean warship sank in the Yellow Sea allegedly due to a North Korean torpedo attack, killing 46 sailors.

In November in the same year, Pyongyang also launched an artillery attack on a South Korean border island in the Yellow Sea, which killed four civilians.

In addition, the North’s repeated nuclear and missile provocations late last year tensed inter-Korean relations and sparked off a verbal battle between the US President Donald Trump and Kim. Pyongyang conducted its sixth and most powerful nuclear test last September, which it said was an H-bomb that can be mounted on a long-range missile. It pushed ahead with development of intercontinental ballistic missiles that it claims could carry a heavy warhead and hit the US mainland. In November, the country fired a new intercontinental ballistic missile that reached altitude of over 4,000 km, with Kim declaring that his country has “finally realized the great historic cause of completing the state nuclear force.” But tensions on the Korean Peninsula have dramatically eased since Kim extended a rare offer of rapprochement to the South in his New Year’s Day speech, suggesting the North’s willingness to participate in the February 9-25 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics hosted by South Korea.

During the Olympics, Kim offered Moon to hold a summit through his influential sister Kim Yo-jong, who visited South Korea as a special envoy of the North Korean leader.

The two Koreas previously held summits only twice, in 2000 and 2007 in Pyongyang, which mainly focused on promoting bilateral relations between the two Koreas.

The April 27 summit will be the first of its kind to be held in the South Korean territory, making Kim the first North Korean leader to step on South Korean soil since the end of the Korean War more than 60 years ago.

Source: Kuwait News Agency