South Korea press cautiously welcome summit with North

A man walks past a newspaper featuring a front page story about the summit between South Korean President Moon Jae In and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, on a sidewalk in Seoul, on April 28, 2018.
A man walks past a newspaper featuring a front page story about the summit between South Korean President Moon Jae In and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, on a sidewalk in Seoul, on April 28, 2018.PHOTO: AFP

SEOUL (AFP) - South Korean newspapers on Saturday (April 28) gave a guarded welcome to the inter-Korean summit, but lamented the lack of a firmer commitment to ridding the North of its nuclear weapons.

North Korea's leader Kim Jong Un and South Korean President Moon Jae In met in the Demilitarised Zone on Friday and agreed to pursue a permanent peace treaty and the complete denuclearisation of their divided peninsula.

"South and North Korea confirmed the common goal of realising, through complete denuclearisation, a nuclear-free Korean peninsula," the two Koreas said in a joint statement issued at the end of the summit at the truce village of Panmunjom.

The conservative Chosun daily said in an editorial that the agreement was positive in terms of repairing frozen ties between the two Koreas but left much to be desired in terms of denuclearisation.

"This is one step back from what was agreed in 2005," it said in reference to an accord under which the North promised to abandon "all nuclear weapons and existing nuclear programmes" and allow outside inspectors in for verification.

"Even if an agreement is reached on denuclearising the North at the upcoming US-North Korea summit, it will take a while to demolish nuclear facilities, weapons and fissile materials," it added.

It noted Kim himself made no mention of denuclearisation in public.

 
 
 

"In order to ensure the North does not backpedal on it again as it did in the past 25 years, continuous sanctions and pressure are required," it said.

The Joongang Daily said the current situation was "drastically different" from a few months earlier, when the leaders of the United States and North Korea were engaged in a contest over whose nuclear button was bigger and more powerful.

"But it was also revealed that there is a long way to go before denuclearisation," it said.

"It was never made public what Kim's idea of denuclearisation is and how and when denuclearisation will be accomplished.

"That is why the latest agreement is seen as just the starting point on a long journey toward denuclearisation", Joongang said.

It noted that a definite road map, including the method, subjects and timeline for denuclearisation, had not been laid out.

But it acknowledged that might have been retained for the forthcoming summit between the North and the US, which would need "a shining moment of dramatic progress".

"If it were a baseball game, we are in the top of the first inning," it said. "And it's not a bad start." The Korea Herald gave a more positive spin to the "Panmunjom Declaration".

The inter-Korean summit was "a stepping stone to the Washington-Pyongyang summit", it said, and had "played its role quite successfully".