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Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 22 October 2018

Denuclearisation to top Moon Jae-in's Pyongyang agenda: Seoul

The South Korean leader will fly to Pyongyang on Tuesday

A picture of South Korean President Moon Jae-in embracing North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in Seoul on September 17, 2018. AFP
A picture of South Korean President Moon Jae-in embracing North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in Seoul on September 17, 2018. AFP

Denuclearisation will be high on South Korean President Moon Jae-in's agenda when he meets with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in Pyongyang this week, his office said Monday.

President Moon will fly to the North Korean capital on Tuesday for his third summit with President Kim in the latest stage of a diplomatic thaw on the peninsula, although progress has stalled in denuclearisation talks between Pyongyang and Washington.

"We will push for North Korea's advanced denuclearisation and a reciprocal measure from the US by swiftly reviving sincere dialogue aimed at establishing new, peaceful relations," President Moon's chief of staff Im Jong-seok told reporters.

President Moon, who met President Kim twice this year, was instrumental in brokering the historic Singapore summit between US President Donald Trump and President Kim in June, when President Kim backed denuclearisation of the "Korean peninsula".

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But no details were agreed and Washington and Pyongyang have sparred since over what that means and how it will be achieved.

The US is pressing for the North's "final, fully verified denuclearisation", while Pyongyang has condemned demands for it to give up its weapons unilaterally as "gangster-like".

Im said the South Korean leader will try to close the gap between the US and the North by playing the role of a mediator.

"Through various meetings and phone calls, President Moon has a better understanding of what the US is thinking than Chairman Kim," he said.

President Moon will become the third South Korean leader to visit Pyongyang and will hold at least two meetings with President Kim, who may make a rare appearance at the airport to welcome his guests, the chief of staff said.

He is also scheduled to attend a concert and visit key sites in the North's capital with his delegation, which includes tycoons Lee Jae-yong – the heir to the Samsung group – and the vice chairman of Hyundai Motor.

President Moon has been pushing inter-Korean economic co-operation but several South Korean newspapers urged caution Monday, with the Korea Herald calling the businessmen's presence on the trip "untimely".

"It is better to postpone economic projects involving the North until after negotiations to remove its nuclear program make substantial progress," it said in an editorial.

And investment in the North was "fraught with risks and uncertainty", it added.

Other issues on President Moon's agenda will be improving inter-Korean ties and easing military tensions on the peninsula, which the South said could lay the ground for declaring a formal end to the 1950-53 Korean War, which ended with an armistice rather than a peace treaty.

That suggested a declaration – which Pyongyang has been pressing for strongly – was unlikely during Moon's trip.