Two Koreas to hold summit as Kim renews denuclearization pledge

Park Chan-kyong - Agence France-Presse
Two Koreas to hold summit as Kim renews denuclearization pledge
This handout photo from South Korea's presidential Blue House taken on September 5, 2018 shows North Korean leader Kim Jong Un (2nd R) receiving a personal letter sent by South Korean President Moon Jae-in from Chung Eui-yong (L), a special envoy of Moon, during their meeting in Pyongyang. A high-level South Korean delegation met with Kim Jong Un in Pyongyang on September 5, as Seoul plans a new summit with the North Korean leader to break a deadlock in denuclearisation talks.
The Blue House / AFP

SEOUL, South Korea — The leaders of the two Koreas will hold a summit in Pyongyang in September, Seoul said Thursday, as Kim Jong Un renewed his commitment to the denuclearisation of the flashpoint peninsula.

The announcement of the September 18-20 summit -- the third between the North's leader Kim and South Korean President Moon Jae-in this year -- comes as US efforts to dismantle Pyongyang's nuclear arsenal have stalled.

The two leaders will meet in the North Korean capital to discuss "practical measures to denuclearise" the peninsula, South Korean National Security Advisor Chung Eui-yong told reporters.

Chung on Wednesday flew to Pyongyang where he handed over a personal letter from Moon to Kim, as Seoul seeks to kick-start the diplomacy that led to the landmark June summit between US President Donald Trump and the North Korean leader.

The two pledged to denuclearise the Korean peninsula at the Singapore meeting but no details were agreed, and Washington and Pyongyang have sparred since on what that means and how it will be achieved.

However, in his meeting with Chung, Kim renewed his commitment to that goal, North Korean state media said Thursday.

The two Koreas "should further their efforts to realise the denuclearisation of the Korean peninsula", Kim was quoted as saying by KCNA.

"It is our fixed stand... to completely remove the danger of armed conflict and horror of war from the Korean peninsula and turn it into the cradle of peace without nuclear weapons and free from nuclear threat."

'Sense of frustration'

The pledge comes after Trump, frustrated with a lack of progress on disarmament, last month cancelled Secretary of State Mike Pompeo's trip to Pyongyang after the North reportedly sent a belligerent letter to the US leader.

Stephen Biegun, newly-appointed US envoy for the North, said last month Kim had promised "final, fully verified denuclearisation" at the Singapore summit.

But Pyongyang has slammed the Washington for its "gangster-like" demands for complete, verifiable and irreversible disarmament.

Kim emphasised that his "trust in Trump remains unchanged" despite the difficulties, Chung said, and expressed his intention to work closely with the US to achieve denuclearisation "in the first official term of President Trump."

But the North Korean leader also expressed a "sense of frustration" with the international community for not appreciating what he called Pyongyang's "very significant and meaningful" steps, Chung said.

Kim noted the North had dismantled its nuclear test site in Punggye-ri, where nuclear tests "have been made impossible for good", according to the South Korean envoy.

"Chairman Kim asked us to convey the message to the US that the US (should) help create situations where he would feel his decision to denuclearise was a right move", Chung said.

Chung also conveyed a message from Trump to Kim, a presidential spokesman said, without elaborating.

'Litmus test'

The upcoming summit between Kim and Moon may help break the months-long deadlock after the Singapore summit, said Lim Eul-chul, professor at Kyungnam University's Graduate School of North Korean Studies. 

"There is a still big gap between what the North considers sufficient goodwill gestures, like destroying its missile test stand or a nuclear test site, and what the US wants, including on-site verification by experts," he said. 

Narrowing the gap and rebuilding trust between Kim and Trump is key in the dialogue -- if any -- ahead, he said, adding Kim would seek to send more reconciliatory messages to Trump through Moon in September.

North Korea has demanded that Washington agree to formally end the 1950-53 Korean War, and accused it of failing to reciprocate "goodwill measures".

But American officials and conservatives in the South are concerned such a declaration would weaken the US-South Korea alliance and deprive the 28,000 US forces stationed on the peninsula of their deployment rationale.

Kim dismissed such worries, Chung said, and told the South Korean delegation that a formal end of the Korean War would not be linked to the withdrawal of the US troops.

Professor Yang Moo-jin of the University of North Korean Studies said Kim sees the US agreeing to a formal end to the war as a "litmus test" to determine whether Washington is sincere in moving forward.

"But the US... does not seem to be ready to accept the North's demand", he told AFP.

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As It Happens
LATEST UPDATE: July 12, 2023 - 10:09am

The leaders of North and South Korea exchange a warm handshake Friday over the demarcation line that divides the two countries ahead of a historic summit.

"I am happy to meet you," Moon Jae-in told his counterpart Kim Jong Un as he became the first leader from the North to step into the South since the Korean war. Moon also briefly stepped into the North before walking back. — AFP

July 12, 2023 - 10:09am

North Korea has fired a ballistic missile, Seoul's military says, days after Pyongyang threatened to down US spy planes that violated its airspace.

"North Korea fired an unidentified ballistic missile towards the East Sea," the Joint Chiefs of Staff said, referring to the body of water also known as the Sea of Japan.

Relations between the two Koreas are at one of their lowest points ever, with diplomacy stalled and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un proclaiming his nation an "irreversible" nuclear state and calling for increased weapons development, including tactical nukes. — AFP

June 16, 2023 - 11:59am

South Korea's military says Friday it had successfully retrieved a large chunk of a crashed North Korean space rocket from the sea bed after 15 days of complex salvage operations.

North Korea attempted to put its first military spy satellite into orbit on May 31, but the projectile and its payload crashed into the sea shortly after launch due to what Pyongyang said was a rocket failure.

After deploying a fleet of naval rescue ships and minesweepers plus dozens of deep-sea divers, Seoul's military said it had managed to salvage what appeared to be the main body of the rocket late Thursday from the Yellow Sea.

"The salvaged object is scheduled to be analysed in detail by specialised institutions such as the national agency for defense development," the Joint Chiefs of Staff say in a statement. — AFP

May 29, 2023 - 11:43am

North Korea's ruling party will hold a high-level meeting in June to review its economic policies, state media said Monday.

The nuclear-armed country has a fragile economy and its government has long been criticised for prioritising the military and its banned nuclear weapons programmes over adequately providing for its people.

The upcoming meeting of the Central Committee of the Workers' Party of Korea (WPK) will assess how national economic plans were carried out in the first half of 2023, the official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) said.

The meeting will also discuss "policy issues of weighty significance in the development of our revolution", KCNA added, without providing further details including the dates.

North Korea imposed a rigid blockade in early 2020 to keep out the coronavirus, and only resumed some trade with China last year. — AFP

April 16, 2023 - 12:53pm

South Korea's military fired warning shots to turn back a patrol boat from the North that had crossed the countries' de facto maritime border, Seoul says.

The boat breached the Northern Limit Line on Saturday morning near South Korea's Baekryeong Island, the Joint Chiefs of Staff says in a statement.

"Our Navy's high-speed boat sent warning messages and conducted warning shots and immediately warded it off," it says.

"Our military is prepared against various provocations and keeping a decisive combat posture while closely monitoring the enemy's movements," the statement adds. — AFP

January 29, 2023 - 12:27pm

A South Korean soldier mistakenly fired a machine gun near the border with North Korea, prompting the military to inform Pyongyang that the shooting was unintentional, a report said Sunday.

Four live rounds were fired during a training along the border in Gangwon province on Saturday evening, Yonhap news agency reported, citing South Korean military officials.

All of the bullets landed on the South's side and no damage was reported.

The military unit immediately informed North Korea that the firings were not intentional and stepped up readiness posture, the officials said. -- AFP

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