Published: Fri, September 21, 2018
Global News | By Blake Casey

Why The United States Should Follow South Korea's Lead On North Korea

Why The United States Should Follow South Korea's Lead On North Korea

South Korean President Moon Jae-in cleared a top item off his bucket list on Thursday: Climbing Mount Paektu in North Korea with its leader Kim Jong Un.

North Korea and South Korea's leaders took to the road for the final day of their summit Thursday - heading to a lovely volcano considered sacred in the North - following a day of wide-ranging agreements they trumpeted as a major step toward peace on the Korean Peninsula.

On Wednesday, Trump tweeted about North Korea's commitment to denuclearization, saying Kim has agreed to "nuclear inspections" and to "permanently dismantle a test site and launch pad".

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on Wednesday he had invited North Korea's foreign minister to meet in NY next week and other Pyongyang officials to Vienna for talks with nuclear envoy Stephen Biegun.

In addition to inviting North Korean Foreign Minister Ri Yong Ho to meet when both are in NY next week for the annual UN General Assembly gathering of world leaders, Pompeo said Washington invited Pyongyang's representatives to meet the United States special representative for North Korea, Stephen Biegun, in Vienna at the "earliest opportunity".

North Korea's pledge at a summit with South Korean President Moon Jae-in in Pyongyang drew an enthusiastic response from US President Donald Trump, even though some US officials and experts fear a ploy to weaken Washington's resolve and its alliance with Seoul.

Moon says such steps, combined with North Korea's unilateral but unverified dismantling of a nuclear testing ground earlier this year, would prevent the North from advancing its weaponry through further nuclear and missile tests. He said he would discuss with Trump his and Kim's goal of declaring an end to the Korean War by the end of this year. He didn't indicate in his brief remarks whether the USA would be willing to take further steps to encourage North Korean action on denuclearization.

But while Moon's warm reception in the North Korean capital and smiling photo opportunities have already been considered a diplomatic victory, a number of worldwide policy experts are still uncertain as to whether facility shutdowns in Yongbyon will actually cease all nuclear production, with the Times noting that some foreign analysts suspect that Kim has other nuclear programs operating in secret.

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A copy of an article of the North's official newspaper Rodong Sinmun dated December 26, 1980 calls Mount Paektu a "sacred mountain of revolution" spearheaded by Kim Il Sung "in the flames of the arduous 20-year anti-Japan struggle". Given our close ties to South Korea and pursuit of peace on the peninsula, this will be a meeting for the United States to watch. The 1950-53 war still technically continues because it ended with a cease-fire, not a peace treaty.

Kim first proposed a second meeting with Trump after their unprecedented June summit in Singapore.

Speaking to the media Wednesday after a brief signing ceremony, Kim and Moon vowed to bring peace to the Korean Peninsula once and for all, something they first committed to at their April summit.

"Chairman Kim expressed his wish that he wanted to complete denuclearization quickly and focus on economic development", Moon said. It said Washington was "stubbornly insisting" the North dismantle its nuclear weapons first, while failing to show its will for confidence-building measures, "including the declaration of the end of war, which it had already pledged".

Moon Jae-in, the South Korean president, stepped into the shallow waters of Heaven Lake, regarded as the spiritual home of the Korean people, bent down at the knee and scooped up a glassful of water.

Meanwhile, however, Moon and Kim made concrete moves of their own to reduce tensions on their border.

Other outcomes of the three-day summit include news that the North and South will jointly pursue a bid to host the 2032 Summer Olympics.

And progress on freezing operations at Nyongbyon - which is probably not North Korea's only nuclear production site - remains contingent on the US making concessions of its own, steps that could be politically unpalatable for many in Washington, including among hawks in Trump's own administration and in Congress.

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