Focus of summit
Peace regime, co-prosperity must not take priority over denuclearization
Denuclearization talks that seemed impossible are about to begin.
South Korea is to hold its third summit with North Korea late in April, followed by a historic first US-North Korea summit in May.
Late last year when war crisis escalated with the US reportedly considering a limited preventive strike against the North, no one could have imagined that this situation would come. It is a relief.
It’s undisputed that President Moon Jae-in played a big role in bringing about agreements on summits.
It’s just the start. Now is the time to make calm and level-headed preparations for the meetings.
Moon has one thing to keep focused on in preparing for the talks.
“We have a precious chance to open the way to denuclearize Korea, set up a permanent peace regime and pursue co-prosperity of South and North Korea,” Moon said in a meeting with his senior aides on Monday.
This remark is understandable as an expression of a long-term vision. But it is a different story when it comes to saying so ahead of a crucial summit. Once a peace regime and co-prosperity are mentioned along with denuclearization, summit preparations will be made in that direction.
Cheong Wa Dae is scheduled to form a summit task force soon. The Ministry of Unification will work out ideas based on the presidential remarks.
The thing that counts is that a peace regime or co-prosperity should be pursued on the premise of denuclearization. Otherwise, national security will likely be imperiled. The summit must be focused on nuclear arms.
If the government goes out of focus and lays more emphasis on co-prosperity or peace regime, the summits will lose direction and momentum.
Of course, Moon’s role was important in building momentum for agreements to hold summits, but change in North Korea was caused by the maximum pressure campaign, which China, the North’s largest trading partner and ally, joined.
Sanctions and pressure must be maintained until the North scraps its nuclear program. Pyongyang will never give up its nukes easily if it can hold out without denuclearizing itself.
For now, it is not reasonable to push for peace regime and co-prosperity simultaneously with or before denuclearization.
Once negotiations on nuclear arms start in earnest, whether or not they are verified and scrapped accordingly will make or mar the summits. Particularly verification will likely become the biggest stumbling block.
It is assumed that the North has developed 10 to 20 nuclear warheads, and if it hides them, verification would become very difficult.
The 1994 US-North Korea Agreed Framework and the 2005 Joint Statement by the six nations -- two Koreas, the US, China, Russia and Japan -- dealt with the North’s budding nuclear program or future nuclear arms. Nevertheless, the accords were eventually broken in the stage of verification.
This time, unlike the past talks, its nuclear program is near perfection. Every suspected facility must be inspected, but how much the North would allow inspection is unclear.
Moon needs pay attention to experts and participants in past negotiations. The most important thing in the South-North summit is to discern whether Kim is truly intent on giving up on nuclear weapons, they say.
In working-level inter-Korean contacts for the summit, if they are held, the government must try to grasp exactly what the denuclearization argued for by the North is and then weigh their demands or preconditions.
Requisites for verification must be a full declaration of nuclear arms and intercontinental ballistic missiles and then freezing them.
To push North Korea toward a true, not fake, denuclearization, sanctions and pressure must not be loosened. Regarding this, it is important for China, among others, to keep pace with the international community to the last.
Cooperation from neighbors is needed to resolve the North Korean nuclear problem and establish peace on the Korean Peninsula. It is timely and appropriate for Moon’s envoys to visit three neighbors, China, Russia and Japan, shortly after visiting Pyongyang and Washington, to explain their meetings with Kim and Trump.
The Moon administration must exert diplomatic efforts as well to secure a multilateral cooperation to denuclearize Korea.