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View more articles by Dagyum Ji
Dagyum Ji is a senior NK News correspondent based in Seoul. She previously worked for Reuters TV.
South Korean President Moon Jae-in met North Korean leader Kim Jong Un at Pyongyang’s Sunan Airport Tuesday morning, beginning what will be the third summit between the two men this year.
The summit is set to last until Thursday, and will see the two leaders hold talks on denuclearization, the signing of a peace treaty formally ending the Korean War, and efforts to relieve inter-Korean military tensions, among other issues.
The trip represents Moon Jae-in’s first to Pyongyang – and the third inter-Korean summit to take place in the North Korean capital.
Former South Korean Presidents Kim Dae-jung and Roh Moo-hyun met with the late DPRK leader Kim Jong Il in 2000 and 2007 respectively.
Their first meeting resulted in the so-called Panmunjom Declaration, which saw the two leaders commit to the “denuclearization of the Korean peninsula” and a range of measures intended to reduce military tensions between North and South.
President Moon departed from Seoul Air Base in Seongnam at 0855 local time on Tuesday, accompanied by an around-150-member delegation.
He landed in Pyongyang at 0949, where he and the South Korean first lady were greeted by the North Korean leader and his wife Ri Sol Ju.
Among the officials waiting to meet the South Korean President were President of the Presidium of the Supreme People’s Assembly Kim Yong Nam, first vice department director of the Central Committee of the Workers’ Party of Korea (WPK) Kim Yo Jong, and vice chairman of the State Affairs Commission of the DPRK Choe Ryong Hae.
Chairman of the Committee for the Peaceful Reunification of the Country (CPRC) Ri Son Gwon, and Minister of Foreign Affairs Ri Yong Ho were also present.
Throngs of North Koreans were there to greet Moon, too.
“We warmly welcome President Moon Jae-in visiting Pyongyang,” one banner read.
“It has a great significance if dialogue between North Korea and the U.S. resumes after my visit to the North,” Senior Secretary to the President for Public Communications Yoon Young-chan quoted Moon as having said before his departure for Pyongyang.
“It is very important that the two Koreas meet on a frequent basis, and we are near the stage of have meetings whenever needed.”
Yoon said the two Koreas were moving towards the “institutionalization of peace.”
The South Korean President is also accompanied by executives from some of South Korea’s largest conglomerates, including Samsung, LG, and Hyundai.
Spokesperson Yoon on Tuesday said Seoul expects the executives to use the visit to consider the potential of inter-Korean economic projects, though he accepted that there existed a “certain limitation on economic cooperation because of sanctions.”
“Therefore, we will review the potential [of projects] in the future rather than fields where we can implement immediately.”
Discussions on inter-Korean economic cooperation will take place within the framework of Seoul’s “New Economic Map” Initiative — announced in July last year — he added.
Kim and Moon are expected to hold their first round of talks after lunch, and the South Korean President is set to stay at Pyongyang’s Baekhwawon State Guesthouse – commonly used by foreign visitors to the North.
The North’s Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) on Tuesday reported on the visit to Pyongyang by President Moon.
KCNA reported the summit would aim to “implementing the Panmunjom declaration for peace, prosperity and reunification of the Korean peninsula.”
“[It] will offer an important opportunity in further accelerating the development of inter-Korean relations that is making a new history.”
Monday saw the Blue House announce that Kim and Moon will discuss major three topics: the improvement of inter-Korean relations, mediation and facilitation of the DPRK-U.S. nuclear negotiations, and the elimination of military tension and the threat of the war.
South Korean Presidential Chief of Staff Im Jong-seok said Seoul will take a cautious stance towards the summit, adding that it is “difficult to make an optimistic forecast” as the issue of denuclearization is “weighing on the summit.”
Through his third meeting with Kim, President Moon on Monday said he wants to achieve “irreversible, permanent and unwavering peace.”
To facilitate the DPRK-U.S. dialogue for denuclearization, Moon also pledged to hold a “candid, frank conversation” with Kim to find common ground between the U.S. and North Korea.
Featured image: Pyeongyang Press Corps