A historic meeting is about to occur and the world is watching. Leaders from North and South Korea will meet on Friday at 9:30 am local time in Peace House in the border town of Panmunjom, which is right in the middle of the demilitarized zone.
The meeting is the first to take place between the two countries in more than a decade, and only the third time the nation's leaders have met since Korea was divided into two nations in 1948.
North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un and South Korean President Moon Jae-In will meet together in what will be a prelude to Jong Un's summit with President Donald Trump in late May or early June. Kim will become the first North Korean leader to cross the Military Demarcation Line between North and South Korea.
South Korean Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-wha credited President Trump with bringing the two sides together.
In an interview with Christiane Amanpour, Kyung said, "Clearly, credit goes to President Trump. He's been determined to come to grips with this from day one."
South Korea’s Foreign Minister tells me in Seoul that “clearly credit goes to President Trump” for bringing North Korea to the negotiating table. “He’s been determined to come to grips with this from day one,” Kang Kyung-wha says.
— Christiane Amanpour (@camanpour) April 26, 2018
Kang told Amanpour that the détente was unexpected. "I think we're all surprised. Obviously pleasantly surprised. I think by all indications we are headed towards a very successful summit between my president and Chairman Kim tomorrow."
She said that Moon's determination also played a role in the thaw. In her analysis, the combination of tough rhetoric and economic and travel sanctions were instrumental.
President Trump's rhetoric, of course, has shifted on North Korea as a summit became a more real possibility.
In August, he threatened "fire and fury like the world has never seen." In September, he said "Rocket Man is on a suicide mission." This week, he said that Kim Jong-un had been "very open and I think very honorable."
Kang admitted Presidents Moon and Trump have at times had "different messaging," but insisted that they maintained close consultations.
"At the end, the message was North Korea will not be accepted -- never be accepted as a nuclear power."
Kyung-wha was asked what would be considered successful.
She said that it the two leaders could write a joint statement of understanding "on a broad set of issues" including denuclearization, peace, and relations between the two countries would be a success.
"If we can get -- put in writing the North Korean leader's commitment to denuclearization, that would be a very solid outcome," she added.
Reuters lays out some of the itinerary of the summit.
South Korean President Moon Jae-in will greet North Korean leader Kim Jong Un on Friday as the latter crosses a military demarcation line to enter the South for the first summit between the two sides in more than a decade, South Korea said.
South Korean honour guards will then escort the leaders to a welcome ceremony at a plaza in Panmunjom, the border village where the summit is to be held, the South’s presidential chief of staff, Im Jong-seok, told a media briefing.
Official dialogue between Kim and Moon will begin at 10:30 a.m. (0130 GMT) at the Peace House in Panmunjom, an hour after Kim is scheduled the cross the border at 9:30 a.m. (0030 GMT).
“This summit will focus more on denuclearisation and securing of permanent peace than anything else,” Im said on Thursday.
“I feel North Korea is sending their key military officials to the summit as they too, believe denuclearisation and peace are important.”
Kim will be accompanied by nine officials, among them his sister, Kim Yo Jong, who led the North’s delegation to the Winter Olympics in South Korea in February and Kim Yong Nam, the North’s nominal head of state.
In addition, there will be Kim Yong Chol, a former intelligence chief and Choe Hwi, the chairman of a sports panel. The North sent athletes to the Winter Olympics, where the neighbours also fielded a joint women’s ice hockey team.
After the end of the first session of talks, Kim Jong Un and Moon will have lunch separately before holding a tree-planting ceremony in the afternoon, Im said.
A pine tree will be planted on the demarcation line to symbolise “peace and prosperity”, Im said, using soil from Mount Paektu in North Korea and Mount Halla in South Korea.
Kim and Moon will water the tree with water brought from the Taedong River in the North and the Han River in the South, Im said. Afterwards, Moon and Kim will take a walk together in Panmunjom before beginning the next round of talks.
At the end of the talks, Kim and Moon will sign a pact and make an announcement, Im said. Later, they will have dinner on the South’s side and watch a video clip themed ‘Spring of One’, he added.
South Korea is largely a Christian nation while North Korea is a Communist country. The question is, what can they actually agree on? Writing something on paper is one thing. Living it out is something completely different.
We'll see if this will be something that will actually produce fruit or whether it is all a ploy for North Korea to gain an upper hand. What occurs on Friday will probably have consequences for Trump's proposed summit later.
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