The leaders of South and North Korea reaffirmed their commitment to the complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula on Friday.
Denuclearization is the key agenda item of the first-ever US-North Korea summit expected in late May or early June.
First of all, the stipulation of the denuclearization commitment in the joint declaration issued after the inter-Korean summit can be viewed as a positive start to the establishment of peace on the peninsula.
Considering the inter-Korean summit serves as a stepping stone to the Washington-Pyongyang summit, the historic South-North summit, held for the first time in the South, played its role quite successfully.
President Moon Jae-in and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un also agreed to induce support and cooperation from the international community for the sake of denuclearization of the peninsula.
Though the joint declaration did not outline a specific denuclearization schedule, such as when they will complete denuclearization of the peninsula and how to do it, the agreement to seek international cooperation regarding the matter can be read positively.
Related concrete plans and measures only need to be worked out in the Trump-Kim summit and follow-up meetings.
Of course, dismantling the nuclear program of a country is a complex process based on sincerity. Though the North’s sincerity will be tested when it begins to undergo related procedures including exhaustive inspections, the prospect for its implementation of the commitment looks bright for now in light of the joint declaration, which produced a surprise set of agreements.
When it comes to the North’s denuclearization commitment, the South is not without concern about the possibility of its flip-flop. However, unlike his late father, the North’s former leader, Kim appeared surprisingly forward-looking regarding the matter. He proposed efforts to avoid the past failures to denuclearize the North, which Trump vows never to repeat. Scenes of Kim talking with Moon amicably have raised hopes for positive outcomes from the upcoming summit with the US.
Just four months ago, it was unimaginable for a summit to happen between the two Koreas and a summit between the US and the North Korea to be arranged.
Late last year, Kim declared his country’s nuclear program was complete, and then in a New Year’s speech, for some reason he suggested that his country participate in the PyeongChang Winter Olympics. Seizing his apparent change of strategy, Moon worked hard to arrange the historic meetings.
Peace and prosperity will come sooner than expected if it is Kim’s real intention to denuclearize the North and improve relations with the South and the international community.
Moon and Kim came up with a wide array of other promising agreements for lasting peace on the peninsula.
They agreed to discontinue every “hostile act” between the two sides as part of efforts to formally end the 1950-1953 Korean War and adopt a peace treaty.
They also vowed to push for trilateral talks involving the US or a four-way dialogue including China to declare an end to the war and replace the armistice agreement with a peace treaty this year.
The South and the North agreed to gradually realize arms reduction when military tension is eased and trust is established.
The spate of inter-Korean summit agreements do not only raise expectations for peace, but leave many tasks ahead.
The road to peace is long. Siting at the negotiating table for the historic summit is just a start, as actions speak louder than words.
Without efforts from both sides to actualize them, the agreements will end up as mere scraps of paper as before.
Agreements to reduce military tension and promote peace are absolutely needed, but prudence and cool-headedness must be maintained until they become a reality. When it comes to security, better safe than sorry.
It appears obvious that the security environment of the peninsula has turned toward denuclearization and rapprochement. South Korea has scheduled a summit with the US in mid-May before the Trump-Kim meeting. Seoul and Washington will come up with a road map for denuclearization. Meanwhile, Seoul must keep close coordination with the US and try to liven up thawing relations with Pyongyang to establish a nuclear-free peace regime.