North Korea

Korea summit could help clarify denuclearisation process ahead of Kim-Trump talks, says South’s ex-unification minister

South Korea’s Moon Jae-in hopes to mediate on key area of contention, while Kim Jong-un hopes for economic aid as price of peace, former minister Jeong Se-hyun said

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 25 April, 2018, 10:08pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 26 April, 2018, 10:45am

The inter-Korean summit is a crucial stepping stone for peace on the peninsula and can pave the way for the planned meeting between US President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, a former South Korean unification minister has said. 

Jeong Se-hyun said South Korean President Moon Jae-in hoped to mediate an agreement on denuclearisation between Washington and Pyongyang when he meets Kim on Friday, by explaining the international community’s requirements and confirming the North’s commitment to the process.

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Jeong, who served as unification minister between 2002 and 2004 during a previous round of peace talks, also told the South China Morning Post that Kim’s recent diplomatic overtures were motivated by a desire to aid the North’s economic development.

“The inter-Korean summit is a stepping stone,” Jeong said. “Trump and Kim must draw up an agreement on denuclearisation when they meet, and the inter-Korean summit will serve its role as a preparatory meeting.”

Trump said on Tuesday that Kim “has really been open and I think very honourable based on what we are seeing”, noting that the US and North Korea are already having “good discussions”. 

Trump said he had hoped to meet Kim in May or early June, but a date and venue have yet to be set.

“You may consider the inter-Korean summit as an introduction and the Trump-Kim one as a conclusion,” said Jeong, who is also an advisory committee member for the inter-Korean summit.

Jeong also suggested that Kim may implement an open-door policy, following in the footsteps of Deng Xiaoping in China, if the normalisation of North Korea’s relationship with the US can be guaranteed.

Kim has two examples – from China and Vietnam – to follow, both being Communist-ruled countries that embraced capitalism without undermining one-party rule. 

China’s influence will be key to denuclearisation of the Korean peninsula

Paramount leader Deng developed the “Reform and Opening” policy in 1978 and started a decades-long economic boom that propelled China from a lumbering backwater into the world’s second-largest economy and a crucial driver of global growth.

“I believe North Korea is clearly signalling a willingness to dismantle its nuclear programme and open up to the international community. They well understand that neighbouring countries, mainly the US Japan, South Korea and China, can give them economic aid,” Jeong said, noting that North Korea wanted foreign investment from capitalist countries.

“Kim Jong-un can follow Deng Xiaoping’s path in transforming North Korea. The North Korean people will think that their great leader Kim Jong-un had achieved something that neither his father nor grandfather ever accomplished” Jeong added.

Jeong also said topics like the definition of denuclearisation, and what it means in practice, are being thrashed out during the run-up to the summit.

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Washington and Seoul want the complete, verifiable and irreversible dismantling of Pyongyang’s existing nuclear weapons, while Pyongyang insists on the withdrawal of US troops from South Korea.

“North Korea wants the denuclearisation of the entire Korean peninsula. and this means the withdrawal of US’s strategic assets from the South,” Jeong said. 

“But recently they are focusing on their own nuclear weapons. The concept of denuclearisation between the two countries is moving closer together.” 

Jeong said the North Korea policy adopted by the previous US administration of Barack Obama – which required Pyongyang to commit to giving up its nuclear weapons – was inadequate in ensuring stability on the Korean peninsula and gave Kim’s regime more time to consolidate its nuclear arsenal.

Between December 2011 and the end of last year, North Korea conducted 90 ballistic missile and four nuclear tests, including its longest ever Intercontinental Ballistic Missile test launches, raising concerns in Washington about its ability to strike US territory.

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“Obama’s administration’s strategic patience is not even a policy. You can’t expect North Korea to voluntarily give up its nuclear weapon without any compensation,” Jeong said, adding that the administration had been rather passive in addressing the problem. 

“During Obama’s time there were no six-party talks to solve the problem,” Jeung said. “Ironically, it gave the North time to refine its nuclear technology.”