About the Author
View more articles by Dagyum Ji
Dagyum Ji is a senior NK News correspondent based in Seoul. She previously worked for Reuters TV.
North Korea and the U.S. are currently engaged in “behind-the-scenes” discussions on a third summit between President Donald Trump and DPRK leader Kim Jong Un, South Korean President Moon Jae-in said on Wednesday.
Stressing the willingness of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and U.S. President Donald Trump to meet despite there having been no official dialogue between the two countries, Moon appeared to confirm that some talks are talking place between the two sides.
“Both sides have been engaged in dialogue in regard to a third summit,” the South Korean President said in a joint interview with six news agencies.
“It’s noteworthy that the behind-the-scenes talks have been preceded by the mutual understanding of each other’s position gained through the Hanoi summit.”
The resumption of nuclear negotiations between the North and the U.S., he said, would serve to take the current peace process on the peninsula to the “next level.”
“I believe everything has now fallen into place for that to happen.”
Seoul and Pyongyang, the President continued, have also continued dialogue through “diverse channels to sustain inter-Korean talks,” reiterating his commitment to meet the North Korean leader “at any given moment without being restrained by time, place or formalities.”
“Dialogue and efforts for dialogue are crucial factors in the peace process on the Korean peninsula,” he said. “That’s because complete denuclearization and a permanent peace regime on the peninsula are tasks that cannot be achieved overnight.”
Moon also denied claims that the current situation was a “stalemate in the peace process… just because the pace has remained slow,” citing a recent exchange of letters between Trump and Kim and the North’s sending of a condolence message following the death of former South Korean First Lady Lee Hee-ho.
“All of this sends a meaningful message,” he said, adding that Kim’s reaffirmation of his commitment to engage in dialogue at last week’s summit with Chinese President Xi Jinping also “backs up this analysis.”
The South Korean government previously expressed its view that Xi’s visit to the North could serve as a way to “create new momentum amid a lull” following the Hanoi summit.
Moon is set to meet the Chinese President and be debriefed on the recent summit in Pyongyang on the sidelines of this week’s G20 summit in Osaka.
As one of the measures to make a breakthrough in the current nuclear deadlock, Moon suggested that the North should move beyond the “passive stance” seen since February’s no-deal second summit in Hanoi.
The DPRK must also “strive to reach agreements in future negotiations while carrying out past promises,” he continued, explaining those steps would “help it win the trust of the international community.”
To “convince the international community of its willingness for complete nuclear dismantlement,” Moon said Pyongyang must re-engage in dialogue “at the earliest date possible.”
“By responding to the U.S. proposal for working-level negotiations, it can also show its determination to denuclearize.”
Last week also saw U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo say Washington is “literally prepared to go at a moment’s notice” if Pyongyang suggests it is open to working-level talks.
Should DPRK-U.S. nuclear negotiations continue in earnest, Moon said, the “key to the negotiations will be to determine what kind of measures that the North will have to complete to say that substantive denuclearization has been achieved.”
Pyongyang and Washington, he continued, will need to decide at what stage both sides can describe North Korea as “having reached an irreversible stage” of denuclearization.
“It will be linked to the definition of denuclearization being clarified, upon which an agreement was not reached at the Hanoi summit,” he said.
It “would be possible to say that the denuclearization of North Korea has entered an irreversible stage,” Moon continued, if all the nuclear facilities in Yongbyon complex, including the plutonium reprocessing and uranium enrichment facilities, are “completely demolished and verified.”
“Although an agreement was not reached last time in Hanoi, I expect that there will be substantive progress if the two sides continue negotiations based on what was discussed in Singapore and Hanoi.”
Both sides have, the South Korean President reiterated, “already reached an agreement on the ultimate goal of denuclearization talks,” and that the two sides understand that “complete denuclearization” will need to be exchanged for security guarantees and the termination of hostile relations.
The current task is to “decide how to implement the promises made to each other: the procedures and sequencing,” he said.
In the interview, Moon stressed his view that Kim has the determination to “move from the past to the future by opting for economic development instead of a nuclear arsenal.”
Kim repeatedly expressed his intention to “finalize the denuclearization process as soon as possible and to concentrate on economic development” during three inter-Korean summits last year, he said.
Through those meetings, Moon said he sensed that Kim is “quite a flexible yet resolute person.”
“I look forward to Chairman Kim demonstrating this kind of flexible determination during denuclearization negotiations as well, and I believe this can be possible,” he said, adding that the international community should seek to create an environment where North Korea can feel secure enough to relinquish its nuclear weapons.
“I think creating a security environment where Chairman Kim can decisively act on nuclear dismantlement without worries is the fastest way to achieve denuclearization diplomatically.”
Edited by Oliver Hotham
Featured image: Rodong Sinmun