What to expect from another Moon-Kim summit?

What do you expect from the another North Korea-South Korea summit, and what effect have current North Korea-South Korea relations on Pyongyang-Washington negotiations? Read few comments.

Inter-Korean summit: SK President Moon Jae-in (right) and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. Credit: english1.president.go.k

Minseon Ku, Political Science PhD Student, Ohio State University

Based on the progress (albeit slow) on denuclearization since the April 27 inter-Korea summit at Panmunjom and the Singapore summit between Trump and Kim in June, I would say that the goals of the third Moon-Kim summit can only be modest, but this is not surprising and even expected considering that denuclearization is expected to be a difficult, painstaking process that is unlikely to happen quickly. The 70 year-old mistrust and hostility between the US and North Korea is unlikely to dissipate or even weaken after one summit between Trump and Kim. I’m sure both Koreas expected a slow progress which was probably why both leaders agreed to meet again soon after their first summit in April and second in May. The meeting is timely and allows both Moon and Kim to re-evaluate the progress. President Moon Jae-in has downplayed any high expectations because of this which is also not surprising for me.

The outcome of this third summit can only be modest also because of South Korea’s role in the denuclearization process.

The upcoming summit between the two Koreas and a subsequent meeting between Trump and Moon soon at New York is one classic example of how South Korea will play the role of a mediator between the US and North Korea. This intentional role is also explicated from South Korea’s proposal to place denuclearization as an item on the agenda of the Moon-Kim summit. Despite the seemingly modest outcome of the upcoming summit, it is unprecedented in terms of the agenda since two Koreas (and the US) have always perceived denuclearization issue to be limited to US-North Korea framework and previous inter-Korea summits in 2000 and 2007 did not include denuclearization as one of the summit agenda. That Moon and Kim are also meeting on the very same day Moon arrives in Pyongyang (as compared to previous summits when South Korean leaders Kim Dae-jung and Roh Moo-hyun only got to meet Kim Jong-il on the following day of their arrival in Pyongyang) also shows that denuclearization from now is going to be one of the key agenda issues between the two Koreas allowing South Korea to play the mediator between North Korea and the US.

However, that the Blue House is uncertain if the summit will continue on the following day (19th) goes to show that there is a high chance that the two Koreas do not see eye-to-eye on not only about the military hostilities between both of them but also denuclearization. Hence, I would not be surprised if nothing significant comes out of the second inter-Korea summit.

Tong Zhao, Fellow, Carnegie-Tsinghua Center for Global Policy

The two Korean leaders are likely to reaffirm their commitment to the eventual goal of a nuclear-free Korean Peninsula, but it would be difficult for them to agree on any specific timetable to achieve that goal. The current denuclearization negotiation is stalled because the United States has little interest in joining the other parties in making a political declaration to end the Korean War before North Korea provides a comprehensive list of its nuclear and missile inventory. Whether the South Korea leader can persuade Kim Jong Un to provide that inventory list or some other concessions to break the current impasse will be a critical test of his diplomatic capability. Mediating between a reluctant United States and a secretive North Korea is a daunting task for Moon Jae In.

Ronald HuiskenSenior Fellow, Strategic & Defence Studies Centre, Australian National University

It would appear that the DPRK objective since the Singapore summit has been to consolidate the view that the US has been the aggressor since 1950  and, therefore, the ‘cause’ of the DPRK’s nuclear program (even though the historical record suggests this is close to the opposite of the truth). Kim Jong-un has, with considerable success, tried to present the post-Singapore period as a trust-building phase prior to engagement on the core issue of denuclearization. And since the US has a trust deficit to make up, Kim has indicated that he is looking for sanctions reliefs as the key indicator of trust and goodwill – although he knows that Trump believes that sanctions were decisive in triggering DPRK political engagement, and that Trump has signaled that sanctions will remain in place until denuclearization has become irreversible. China has already stepped back from ‘maximum pressure’ and Kim can be expected to test Moon’s resolve to maintain solidarity with the US and support sanctions until denuclearization is well underway. Thus far, all the statements that I have seen from Pyongyang  on denuclearization since Singapore support the view that the DPRK will insist on elimination of the nuclear threat it perceives from the US, that is, changes to the US-ROK relationship that erode or eliminate extended nuclear deterrence. I would also be looking for some further indications on the content of denuclearization as seen from Pyongyang. It would appear that Kim is listening closely to  Xi  Jinping’s views on these matters.

Benjamin HabibLecturer in Politics & International Relations,, La Trobe University

While family reunions have taken place, as negotiated in Singapore, it is doubtful that Trump has the domestic support to deliver on anything further at this time. This, combined with his erratic impulses on foreign policy generally, make it difficult for the United States to be taken seriously as a trusted negotiating partner. North Korea will play its own usual game of diplomatic brinkmanship, reneging on promises in order to extract more favourable terms. The South Korean government will forge on regardless with its engagement initiatives, keen to maintain the momentum of this year’s earlier inter-Korean summit, upon which Moon Jae In has staked enormous political capital.

Malcolm Cook, Senior Fellow, Institute of Southeast Asian Studies

US-North Korea relations have a much greater effect on inter-Korean relations than inter-Korean relations have on US-North Korea ones. It is in Seoul’s interest that inter-Korean relations and South Korea’s commitments to North Korea do not get too far ahead of US-North Korea relations and US policy towards North Korea. This means that the outcomes of the upcoming inter-Korean Summit may be more modest than many hope given the current lack of positive movement on US-North Korea relations and North Korean denuclearization.”

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