The Korea Herald


Moon hints at trilateral summit with US, NK

Seoul proposes high-level talks on summit with North Korea ahead of summit

By Jung Min-kyung

Published : March 21, 2018 - 15:16

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Stressing the need to resolve North Korea’s nuclear issues, President Moon Jae-in on Wednesday hinted at the possibility of a trilateral summit involving the divided Koreas and the United States.

“Holding a North Korea-US summit after an inter-Korean summit itself is a historical event. And depending on their outcomes, they may lead to a trilateral summit of the South, North and US,” Moon said at a meeting of Seoul‘s inter-Korean summit preparation committee, according to Cheong Wa Dae pool reports. 

From left: US President Donald Trump, South Korean President Moon Jae-in, and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un (Yonhap) From left: US President Donald Trump, South Korean President Moon Jae-in, and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un (Yonhap)

“We must completely resolve the issues of denuclearizing the Korean Peninsula and establishing peace through these upcoming talks and others that will follow,” he added at the meeting at Cheong Wa Dae.

Moon is set to hold a bilateral summit with North Korean counterpart Kim Jong-un next month, which will be followed by US President Donald Trump’s separate talks with the young North Korean leader. Trump, accepting Kim’s surprise proposal, said the US-North meeting is to take place before the end of May.

The landmark summits were arranged by a group of South Korean special envoys who traveled to Pyongyang and met with Kim earlier this month.

As a result of the committee meeting, Cheong Wa Dae offered to hold high-level talks with North Korea next week to hammer out details for the upcoming inter-Korean summit, which include the specific schedule and items.

Seoul seeks to hold the dialogue at the Tongilgak administrative building on the northern side of the truce village of Panmunjom, said Cheong Wa Dae spokesman Kim Eui-kyeom at a press briefing, while adding that the high-level delegation will be led by Unification Minister Cho Myoung-gyon.

The proposal will soon be delivered to the North via the country’s Ministry of Unification.

At the committee meeting, Moon also highlighted the need to show how the South, North and US can benefit through the peaceful resolution of the North Korean nuclear issue.

“Though it is an unexplored path we have never walked, we have clear plans and a clear vision of goals we seek to achieve through an agreement between the leaders of the South, North and US,” Moon said.

“They may be the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula, a permanent peace regime on the Korean Peninsula and the normalization of the North-US relationship, development of South-North Korean relations and economic cooperation between the North and the US or the North, US and South Korea,” he added.

On Moon’s latest remarks, experts raised the possibility of a proposal for a declaration to officially end the state of war between South and North Korea. The two Koreas remain technically at war, since the 1950-53 Korean War ended in a truce, not a peace treaty.

“The remark is also linked to a possible peace treaty and a declaration to end the state of war between the South and the North, which Moon views as a big step toward achieving the goal of peace on the Korean Peninsula,” Koh Yu-hwan, a professor of North Korean studies at Dongguk University, told The Korea Herald, alluding to the South, North and US’ respective roles in issues surrounding the peninsula.

The Seoul-based expert added that there may be a chance of both the inter-Korean and US-North summit being held at the truce village of Panmunjom to enhance the symbolic tone of the meetings.

“It would be meaningful for both summits and perhaps the possible trilateral summit to be held in Panmunjom (across the two Koreas) while bringing a change on the peace order on the Korean Peninsula,” he said.

He also said a trilateral summit would help pave the way for multilateral talks involving other nations such as China, Japan and Russia on the North’s nuclear issues.

“South Korea, North Korea and the US are the three key nations that are involved in bringing a resolution to the issues on the Korean Peninsula -- it makes sense for the three nations to lead on the core issues then expand it to multilateral talks,” Koh said.

Seoul recently revealed that it still views the long-stalled six-party talks as a viable framework to resolve the North Korean nuclear issue. The talks, which came after North Korea committed to denuclearization in 2003, faltered after the North walked out in 2008.

The summit preparation committee meeting in Seoul came as respective delegations from the South, US and North held “1.5-track” talks -- unofficial meetings among government officials, personnel and nongovernment experts -- in Finland. The talks were joined by Choe Kang-il, North Korea’s Foreign Ministry deputy director-general for North American affairs who is focused mostly on preparing for the upcoming summits, according to local media reports.

Meanwhile, North Korea broke its silence about its tenuous relationship with the US in its state media, warning hard-liners in Seoul and Washington against trying to “spoil the atmosphere.”

The official Korean Central News Agency said its ties with the two nations were merely at the “beginning level,” calling for the “prudence and patience” of relevant parties.

It also denied speculation that heavy sanctions against its regime pushed the country to the negotiation table, blaming officials in the US and Japan, as well as conservatives in South Korea for “distorting the truth.”

By Jung Min-kyung (