Moon to send special envoy to Pyongyang on Sept. 5

Sep 03, 2018, 10:01 am

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North Korean leader Kim Jong-un and U.S. President Donald Trump shake hands after their meetings at the Capella resort on Sentosa Island in Singapore on June 12./ Source: Yonhap News

By AsiaToday reporter Park Ji-sook 

September will be a crucial turning point for the fate of the Korean Peninsula as nuclear talks between the U.S. and North Korea are going nowhere. With big diplomatic events ahead, including North Korea's Foundation Day on Sept. 9, inter-Korean summit in Pyongyang and the U.N. General Assembly, South Korean President Moon Jae-in's role as a mediator will be once again tested. 

Moon on Sunday named his national security chief as a special envoy to lead a special delegation to North Korea on Wednesday as he seeks to move forward stalled nuclear negotiations between the North and the United States. The primary purpose of the delegation is determining details of the schedule for the inter-Korean summit and the agenda of the summit, but Seoul hopes the delegation will also kick-start stalled denuclearization talks between Washington and Pyongyang. The five-member delegation includes National security adviser Chung Eui-yong, spy chief Suh Hoon, Vice Unification Minister Chun Hae-sung, Yun Kun-young, presidential secretary for state affairs, and top NIS official Kim Sang-gyun. As the team consists of the same officials that visited Pyongyang for a breakthrough meeting with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un in March, the members are likely to persuade the North to engage in denuclearization negotiations with the United States. "The delegations will discuss agendas for the declaration of the end of war, the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula, and the establishment of lasting peace," Cheong Wa Dae said. 

North Korea has been seeking a declaration to end the Korean War while the U.S. has demanded Pyongyang to hand over a list of its nuclear test sites in response. As North Korea is likely to announce its stance on its foundation day on Sept. 9, many point out that the South Korean delegation need to persuade the North as much as possible. 

"North Korea's acceptance of South Korean delegation represents its willingness to communicate," Koh Yu-hwan, a professor of North Korean studies at Dongguk University in Seoul, told AsiaToday in a phone interview. "One of the main agenda would be implementing the Panmunjom Declaration, but it's our important role to move forward the stalled talks between Washington and Pyongyang. South Korea needs to play the role as a mediator so that Pyongyang-Washington talks can be carried out immediately after North Korea's Foundation Day on Sept. 9," Koh said.

The fact that the U.S. is putting pressure on North Korea and keeping an eye on South Korea's decision to send a special delegation to the North indicates that Moon's role as a mediator has become greater. When asked about South Korean envoys' planned Pyongyang visit, a U.S. Department of State official said on Friday, "Progress on inter-Korean relations must happen in lockstep with progress on denuclearization." Moon is likely to send his special envoy to the United States to deliver Kim's message to U.S. President Donald Trump after sending his special envoy to the North. If the special delegation to Pyongyang achieves fruitful outcome, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo might visit Pyongyang ahead of the inter-Korean summit.

If President reconfirms North Korea's willingness to denuclearize and advance concrete roadmap to denuclearization and end-of-war declaration plan based on trust with Kim, the Washington-Pyongyang relations is likely to change rapidly. If North Korea promises to report and verify its nuclear program facilities to be shut down and the United States promises to guarantee the implementation of an end-of-war declaration within the year, North Korea could at least solidify the foundation of end-of-war declaration at the U.N. General Assembly in September. The end-of-war declaration will be an important political momentum for the Trump administration as well as the midterm elections will take place in November.

#Moon Jae-in #inter-Korean relations #Pyongyang #special envoy #denuclearization 
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