Moon, Kim to meet in Sept in bid to break impasse in nuclear talks

North Korea's leader Kim Jong Un (left) shaking hands with South Korea's President Moon Jae-in at the Military Demarcation Line at the truce village of Panmunjom, on Aug 13, 2018.
North Korea's leader Kim Jong Un (left) shaking hands with South Korea's President Moon Jae-in at the Military Demarcation Line at the truce village of Panmunjom, on Aug 13, 2018.PHOTO: AFP

South Korean President Moon Jae-in and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un look set to hold their third summit in Pyongyang next month, as pressure mounts on Seoul to do more to break the impasse in denuclearisation talks between the North and the United States.

The summit decision was made during high-level talks between the North and South at the truce village of Panmunjom yesterday.

The two leaders agreed in April, when they met for the first time, to have a subsequent summit in the autumn. They met again in May ahead of Mr Kim's summit with US President Donald Trump in June.

In a joint statement yesterday, the two Koreas said they had agreed to hold the fifth inter-Korea summit "within September in Pyongyang".

The first summit between leaders of the two countries took place in 2000 with then North Korean leader Kim Jong Il hosting then South Korean President Kim Dae-jung, and this was followed by another meeting in 2007 with then South Korean President Roh Moo-hyun.

No date was mentioned for next month's summit, leaving analysts to conclude that both sides could not agree on one. Pyongyang wanted it to take place before Sept 9, the anniversary of North Korea's founding, Dr Park Jee-kwang of the Sejong Institute think-tank told The Straits Times.

But Seoul, wary of Pyongyang taking advantage of the summit for domestic propaganda, preferred to hold it just before the start of the United Nations General Assembly session on Sept 18, he added.

Yesterday, both sides reviewed the progress of implementing the Panmunjom Declaration - an agreement between their leaders in April to boost cooperation and work towards complete denuclearisation. The delegations also discussed "further methods to fulfil the declaration in a sincere manner", said a joint statement.

South Korean Unification Minister Cho Myoung-gyon, who led the talks with North Korean chief delegate Ri Son Gwon, said that Pyongyang was asked to speed up nuclear disarmament talks, to which it replied that it was "pushing forward with steps agreed to with the United States". Pressure has been mounting on Seoul to play a more active role in mediating between Pyongyang and Washington after denuclearisation talks hit a stalemate following the Trump-Kim summit in Singapore on June 12.

Dr Park said: "There is pressure from the US to press North Korea to give up nuclear weapons, but the progressive Moon Jae-in government is friendly towards the North and has little intention to pressure them." He added that while Mr Trump has so far been patient with Mr Kim, "it will be disastrous for North Korea if Trump changes his mind and starts doubting North Korea's intentions".

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 14, 2018, with the headline 'Moon, Kim to meet in Sept in bid to break impasse in nuclear talks'. Print Edition | Subscribe