Kim, Moon to meet at Military Demarcation Line before summit
North Korea's leader Kim Jong Un and South Korean President Moon Jae-in will meet at the Military Demarcation Line that divides the peninsula for their summit on Friday, in an occasion laden with symbolism. Moon will greet his visitor at concrete blocks that mark the border between the two Koreas in the Demilitarized Zone, the Chief of the South's Presidential Secretariat Im Jong-seok said.
When Kim steps over the line he will become first North Korean leader to set foot in the South since Korean War ended 65 years ago. The meeting will be only third-of-its-kind, following summits in Pyongyang in 2000 and 2007, and high point so far of a rapid diplomatic rapprochement on the tension-wracked peninsula, ahead of a much-anticipated meeting between Kim and President Trump.
N-Korea's nuclear arsenal will be high on agenda. 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 test, by far its most powerful to date, and launched missiles capable of reaching US mainland, sending tensions soaring as Kim and Trump traded personal insults and war threats.
Moon seized on South's Winter Olympics as an opportunity to try to broker dialogue between them. But Jong-seok warned, "Reaching a deal on denuclearization at a time when North Korea's nuclear and ICBM programs have advanced greatly will be fundamentally different in nature from denuclearization 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 denuclearize," Jong-seok said. In the past, North Korean support for the "denuclearization of Korean peninsula" have been code for the removal of US troops from South and the end of its nuclear umbrella over its security ally, prospects unthinkable in Washington.
Recently, Seoul promoted the idea of a path towards a peace treaty to formally end 1952-53 Korean War, which stopped with a ceasefire, but Jong-seok didn't mention the issue. Reunions of families left divided by conflict could also be discussed, and Moon has told Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe that he would raise the emotive subject of Japanese citizens kidnapped by the North's agents.
Kim will be given a military honor guard and two leaders will walk to the Peace House, a glass and concrete building on the southern side of the truce village of Panmunjom where the summit will be held. Kim will sign the guestbook before the morning session starts, Jong-seok said, describing the occasion as a "summit for peace and prosperity on the Korean peninsula".
Delegations will have separate lunches, Jong-seok said, with North's group crossing back to their side of the border to eat. Moon and Kim will together plant "a pine tree, which stands for peace and prosperity, which has symbolized confrontation," Jong-seok said. The soil will come from Mount Paektu, on the North's border with China, and Mount Halla, on the South's southern island of Jeju.
After they sign an agreement a joint statement will be issued. "We are thinking it could be called the 'Panmunjom Declaration'," Jong-seok said. A banquet and farewell ceremony will follow in the evening before Kim returns to the North.
North Korea's delegation will include Kim's sister Kim Yo Jong, one of his closest advisers, who attended the Winter Olympics in South in February as his envoy. The North's ceremonial Head of state Kim Yong Nam, who accompanied Yo Jong to the Winter Olympics, will also be part of the group, as will its foreign and defense ministers.
"Unlike in the past, the delegation includes top military official and diplomats. We did not expect this. We believe it signals that North Korea views the summit not just as a North-South summit but is also considering the US-North Korea summit," Jong-seok said.