North Korean leader Kim Jong-un and South Korean President Moon Jae-in on Friday signed the “Panmunjom Declaration” after their meeting in Panmunjom on the southern side. The declaration aims to officially declare an end to the Korean War (1950-53) within the year and focus on peace.
The declaration said both sides confirm their mutual aim to denuclearize the peninsula, which marks the first time that North Korea has delivered an unequivocal message of denuclearization since Kim became the country’s leader.
Such results met the best expectations from the Kim-Moon summit, thereby making it a success.
Through the meeting, Kim won more recognition in his appearance on live TV, which also demonstrated the special bond between North and South Korea as the same nation.
We are also aware that the results of the high-profile meeting remain fragile, because another heavyweight player, US President Donald Trump, has yet to appear on stage. Just one day before Kim met with Moon, Trump said he may “walk out” from his planned meeting with Kim, and “maybe the meeting doesn’t even take place,” meaning it’s still conditional.
Many people believe that Friday’s meeting is a precursor to the Kim-Trump meeting. Moon was acting as “Trump’s super envoy.” Any agreements reached between Moon and Kim must have been supported by Washington, otherwise they will not be delivered.
The denuclearization of the peninsula, written into the Panmunjom Declaration, is only a prospect with no specific plan. That is because such specifics can be reached only between the US and North Korea, and South Korea has only limited authority to bargain.
Friday’s meeting is the third between top leaders of the two sides. However, the collapse of the previous two meetings between previous leaders was proof that the failure in North Korea-US ties would hamper relations between the two Koreas.
Friday was probably the happiest day for Koreans in years, as the two leaders held their meeting and reached agreements. However, people may still feel uneasy as the planned Kim-Trump meeting will decide whether the progress made on Friday is futile. Many people were concerned that the closeness shown during the Pyeongchang Winter Olympic Games would be short-lived, and now such fears still haunt the peninsula.
We hope that change will eventually take place. After the signing of the Panmunjom Declaration, Moon held Kim’s hand high, showing that from that moment, efforts by either the North or South side to forge peace on the peninsula should no longer be excluded.
It’s worth noting that South Korea has played an important role in breaking the stalemate and facilitating the meeting. Seoul proved in the past months that its creativity and active participation have the capacity to affect the direction of the situation. Seoul should continue to stick with its pursuit instead of being overly obedient to Washington like in the past.
Trump has said on multiple occasions that he may or may not meet Kim. Whether the two will meet should not be decided solely by the White House. Cheong Wa Dae should also have a say. Whatever the US does will greatly affect the interests of South Korea. Seoul is not a bystander of the presumed Kim-Trump meeting.
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