S. Korea marks summit's first anniversary - without North

SEOUL • North and South Korea yesterday struck different notes on the first anniversary of a summit between their leaders that fuelled a whirlwind of diplomacy, which has died down amid a deadlock over Pyongyang's denuclearisation.

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and South Korean President Moon Jae-in held their first meeting on April 27 last year in the Demilitarised Zone dividing the peninsula amid a rapid diplomatic thaw, paving the way for a historic summit between Mr Kim and US President Donald Trump in Singapore in June.

But one year later, little progress has been made on North Korea's nuclear weapons, with Pyongyang and Washington deadlocked since a second summit between Mr Trump and Mr Kim in Hanoi in February broke down without a deal.

Mr Moon, who brokered the first meeting between the two mercurial leaders, has tried to salvage the diplomacy although the North has remained largely unresponsive. Since Hanoi, the North has not attended any of the weekly meetings of the heads of their joint liaison office in Kaesong, and has not taken part in other joint projects.

North Korea did not respond to the South's invitation last week for a ceremony yesterday at Panmunjom - where Mr Moon and Mr Kim exchanged warm smiles and hugs - to commemorate their landmark meeting last year.

Instead, the North's Committee for the Peaceful Reunification of Korea, which handles inter-Korea relations, urged Seoul yesterday to take "more active measures" to improve ties.

A commentary carried by the South's conservative Dong-A Ilbo newspaper yesterday noted that inter-Korea relations have returned to the "old pattern", where Seoul unilaterally tries to engage Pyongyang despite being repeatedly snubbed by its neighbour.

Yesterday, musicians from South Korea, the US, Japan and China performed on the South's side of Panmunjom. Mr Moon and Mr Kim were absent at the low-key event, which was attended by some 500 diplomats, government officials and civilians.

"This is a new path, and as we all must take it together, we need, sometimes, to wait for those moving slower to catch up," Mr Moon said in a video message.

A commentary carried by the South's conservative Dong-A Ilbo newspaper yesterday noted that inter-Korea relations have returned to the "old pattern", where Seoul unilaterally tries to engage Pyongyang despite being repeatedly snubbed by its neighbour.

"The celebration event held only by South Korea today presents both dream and reality of the first anniversary," the paper said.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on April 28, 2019, with the headline 'S. Korea marks summit's first anniversary - without North'. Print Edition | Subscribe