GOYANG, SOUTH KOREA (REUTERS, AFP) - South Korean President Moon Jae In will meet North Korean leader Kim Jong Un on Friday (April 27) as the latter crosses a military demarcation line to the South for the first summit between the two sides in more than a decade, South Korea said, in an occasion laden with symbolism.
Moon will greet his visitor at the concrete blocks that mark the border between the two Koreas in the Demilitarised Zone, the chief of the South’s presidential secretariat Im Jong Seok said.
When Kim steps over the line, he will become the first North Korean leader to set foot in the South since the Korean War ended 65 years ago.
The meeting will be only the third of its kind, following summits in Pyongyang in 2000 and 2007, and the high point so far of a rapid diplomatic rapprochement on the tension-racked peninsula, ahead of a much-anticipated meeting between Kim and United States President Donald Trump.
At the end of the one-day summit, Kim and Moon will sign an agreement and issue a joint statement, Im told a media briefing on Thursday.
“We are thinking it could be called the ‘Panmunjom Declaration’,” Im said, referring to the border truce village where the summit is to be held.
The North’s nuclear arsenal will be high on the agenda on Friday. Pyongyang has made rapid progress in its weapons technology under Kim, who inherited power from his father in 2011.
Last year, it carried out its sixth nuclear blast, by far its most powerful to date, and launched missiles capable of reaching the US mainland, sending tensions soaring as Kim and Trump traded personal insults and threats of war.
Moon seized on the South’s Winter Olympics as an opportunity to try to broker dialogue between them.
But Im warned: “Reaching a deal on denuclearisation at a time when North Korea’s nuclear and ICBM (intercontinental ballistic missile) programmes have advanced greatly will be fundamentally different in nature from denuclearisation agreements reached in the 1990s and early 2000s."
“That’s what makes this summit all the more difficult,” he added.
"The difficult part is at what level the two leaders will be able to reach an agreement regarding (the North’s) willingness to denuclearise,” he said. “And how it will be expressed in text.”
After Kim crosses the military demarcation line and meets Moon, they will be escorted by the South Korean honour guards to a welcome ceremony at a plaza in Panmunjom, Im said. It will be the first time a North Korean leader is inspecting a South Korean military honour guard, reported Yonhap news agency.
Official dialogue between Kim and Moon will begin at 10.30am local time (9.30am Singapore time) at the Peace House in Panmunjom, an hour after Kim is scheduled to cross the border on foot at 9.30am local time (8.30am Singapore time).
Kim will sign the guest book at the Peace House before the morning session starts, Im said, describing the occasion as a “summit for peace and prosperity on the Korean peninsula”.
After the end of the first session of talks, the delegations will have separate lunches, Im told a briefing, with the North’s group crossing back to their side of the border to eat.
After lunch, both leaders will hold a tree-planting ceremony. Im said a pine tree sown in 1953 has been selected to symbolise the year that the armistice was signed to end the three-year conflict.
The site for the tree planting will be on the demarcation line, near the road that late founder of Hyundai Group Chung Ju Yung used in the late 1990s when he led truckloads of cows to the North as part of reconciliatory efforts.
The two leaders' names will be inscribed on a stone in front of the tree that will also carry the phrase, "Plant peace and prosperity".
The soil for the tree planting is from Mount Baektu in North Korea and Mount Halla in South Korea. Both leaders will water the tree with water brought from the Taedong River in the North and the Han River in the South, Im said.
Afterwards, Moon and Kim will take a walk together in Panmunjom before beginning the next round of talks.
Kim's sister Kim Yo Jong, one of his closest advisers, will be part of the North Korean delegation.
She attended the Winter Olympics in the South in February as Kim's envoy.
Top military officials will also be accompanying Kim for this trip to the South.
It is rare that the North is adding top military officials and diplomats to the list of its entourage for the summit, reported Yonhap news agency.
In previous summits in 2000 and 2007, such North Korean officials were not included.
"North Korea appears to take into account not only the inter-Korea summit but also the subsequent North-US summit and efforts for international cooperation," Im, the chief of a preparation committee for the summit, said.
"The North seems to include military officials as (North Korea's) denuclearisation and ways to establish permanent peace and ease tensions will be mainly discussed," he added.
He also said the two Koreas are still in consultation over whether Ri Sol Ju, Kim's wife, will accompany Kim on his trip, but nothing has been decided.
Friday's meeting between Moon and Kim will mark the third inter-Korea summit.
Only a handful of local journalists were allowed to cover the two previous summits, held in 2000 and 2007, as they were both staged in Pyongyang.
"For the first time in the history of inter-Korea summits, foreign correspondents will be at the upcoming event in person," said the presidential Blue House in a press release.