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[2018 Inter-Korean summit] Moon Jae-in, Kim Jong-un set to hold historic summit in DMZ

Military, diplomatic brass in NK delegation hints at long-term plans

The inter-Korean summit will kick off with President Moon Jae-in and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un meeting at the Military Demarcation Line in Panmunjeom at 9:30 a.m. Friday.

The two leaders will then attend a welcome ceremony and begin their meeting at the South’s Peace House at about 10:30 a.m., Moon’s chief of staff Im Jong-seok said Thursday.

The welcome ceremony will include a review of South Korea’s honor guard, which has been arranged as the North had arranged honor guard reviews for late Presidents Kim Dae-jung and Roh Moo-hyun’s during their visits to Pyongyang.

The two sides will break for lunch, and resume talks later in the day after Moon and Kim take part in a tree-planting ceremony and a walk around the grounds. 

South Korean President Moon Jae-in, left, and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un (Yonhap)
South Korean President Moon Jae-in, left, and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un (Yonhap)

“The two leaders will plant a pine tree, a symbol of peace and prosperity, on the MDL that has symbolized conflict and division for 65 years,” Im said.

The tree, which is said to have germinated in 1953, the year the armistice was signed, will be planted using soil gathered from Hallasan on Jeju Island and Baekdusan in the North.

In the second part of the talks, Seoul hopes for the two sides to reach an agreement on outstanding issues including denuclearization. Im, however, said that the form and content of the agreement remain unclear.

“At this point in time, when North Korea’s nuclear and ICBM (intercontinental ballistic missile technologies) are highly advanced, reaching a denuclearization agreement is a matter that is fundamentally different from agreements reached in the early 1990s and 2000s. This is what makes this summit difficult,” said Im, who also serves as the chief of the preparation committee for the inter-Korean summit.

Im added that as the issue of denuclearization involves more than the two Koreas, Moon and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un reaching a clear understanding on denuclearization would constitute a success for the summit.

“If (North Korea’s) will to denuclearize can be stipulated, and (that the agreement on the issue) means complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula, I think this summit would be very successful regarding denuclearization,” Im said.

“(Such an agreement) will be an excellent guide to lead into the US-North Korea summit.”

While remaining cautious about the summit’s results, Im said that the composition of Kim Jong-un’s entourage hints at the importance Pyongyang is placing on the meeting.

Kim Jong-un will be accompanied by North Korea’s top officials including ceremonial head of state Kim Yong-nam, and Kim Jong-un’s sister Kim Yo-jong, and a number of ranking officials from North Korea’s Workers’ Party and the military.

Officials accompanying Kim Jong-un include Kim Yong-chol, Choe Hwi, chief of the general staff of the Korean People’s Army Ri Myong-su and Minister of People’s Armed Forces Pak Yong-sik. The delegation will also include Foreign Minister Ri Yong-ho and Ri Son-gwon, chairman of North Korea’s Committee for Peaceful Reunification.

“(Kim Jong-un’s entourage) includes core military and diplomatic officials, which was not expected,” said Im.

“(Seoul) takes the move as a sign that the North is not considering just the inter-Korean summit, but looking ahead to the US-North Korea talks, and international cooperation that will follow.”

As for Kim Jong-un’s wife Ri Sol-ju, Im said Seoul hopes for her presence but that related negotiations have not been conclusive.

Moon will be accompanied by Im, National Security Office chief Chung Eui-yong, National Intelligence Service Director Suh Hoon, Unification Minister Cho Myoung-gyon, Defense Minister Song Yong-moo, Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-wha and Gen. Jeong Kyeong-doo, the chief of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

By Choi He-suk (