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Inter-Korean historic summit renews hopes of peace

Ⓒ AFP – Jung Yeon-je – | Observation post on the southern border of the Demilitarized Zone that divides the two Koreas, where the North Korean town of Gijungdong (left in the distance) and the South Korean one of Taesungong (right) can be seen in the background.

The leader of North Korea, Kim Jong Un, will make a historic gesture on Friday when visiting for the first time the South for a summit with President Moon Jae-in, which seeks to realize the hopes of peace between the two neighbors after the diplomatic approach of early years.

The future of Pyongyang’s atomic arsenal will be at the center of the talks between the two leaders, who could also raise the question of a peace treaty to officially end the 1950-1953 war.

It will be the first time that a North Korean leader sets foot in the South since the armistice signed almost 65 years ago. The first two inter-Korean summits, in 2000 and 2007, took place in Pyongyang.

This meeting in Panmunjom, “the people of the truce,” will pave the way for an even more awaited summit, a few weeks later, between Kim and US President Donald Trump.

Meanwhile, this meeting is another illustration of the spectacular overheating in the peninsula since Kim announced on January 1, to everyone’s surprise, that his country would participate in the Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, in the South.

Pyongyang sent a delegation to the Games in February that included the North Korean leader’s own sister before proposing to negotiate denuclearization in exchange for guarantees on the security of the North.

Ⓒ KOREA POOL/AFP/Archivos – YONHAP – | The then leaders of North Korea, Kim Jong-Il (right), and South, President Kim Dae-Jung, in the year 2000 during a historic summit between the two countries in Pyongyang

Trump accepted the North Korean proposal to meet and Kim went to Beijing in March for his first official foreign visit since coming to power at the end of 2011.

– “Favorite sword” –

Nobody would have bet on this scenario at the end of last year, when North Korea, which had just carried out its sixth nuclear test and multiplied the missile launches, threatened to bomb the United States with atomic fire. With exchange of insults between Trump and Kim included.

While Pyongyang was fleeing in the direction of nuclear energy, the UN Security Council reinforced its sanctions in 2016 and 2017.

The data of the problem – one of the thorniest in the world – are well known: Washington asks Pyongyang to renounce the nuclear weapons that the North Korean regime presents as its “favorite sword”, a life insurance against the US threats of invasion .

On Saturday, Kim announced a moratorium on nuclear tests and long-range ballistic missile launches, stating that the targets were met.

He has not committed to anything else but that did not stop Trump claiming victory in a tweet: “We have not given anything away and they have accepted denuclearization (very good for the world), the closure of sites and the end of trials ”

Ⓒ AFP – Laurence CHU – | Map of the Joint Security Zone of Panmunjom, on the border between the two Koreas, where the summit between North and South will be held

Moon saw in the announcement of Pyongyang “an important decision towards the total denuclearization of the Korean peninsula.”

Except that the North has already talked about moratoriums and denuclearization in the past.

“There are many different ways of interpreting North Korean formulations: verbatim, between the lines or under the prism of their own hopes,” warns Koh Yu-hwan, a professor of North Korean Studies at Dongguk University.

– Divergent Motivations –

However, the three main actors in the case have divergent motivations, he explains.

“The most urgent thing for Trump is to prevent North Korea from seizing an intercontinental missile, and North Korea wants to avoid US bombings and negotiate as a nuclear power to improve the economy.”

“South Korea wants the North and the United States to dialogue for a peaceful resolution and resume inter-Korean links.”

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