South Korea urges for 'bold decisions' ahead of next Trump-Kim summit
As Kim Jong Un and Donald Trump plan a second summit, Seoul has called for more progress in denuclearization talks. Despite agreeing to nuclear disarmament, there are few indications that Pyongyang is following through.
South Korean President Moon Jae-in called on both North Korea and the United States on Tuesday to make concrete steps in their stalled negotiations over Pyongyang's nuclear weapons program.
Moon said the US and North Korea need to "make bold decisions" and that both must communicate more actively with one another.
"North Korea must carry out its nuclear dismantling and the United States must take a corresponding step," Moon said, adding that he will continue to act as mediator between the two sides.
Moon's comments come one week before he is due to meet with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un for a summit in Pyongyang that is due to run from September 18-20. It will be the third summit between the two leaders this year.
Improving relations between North and South Korea is largely tied to progress in talks between Washington and Pyongyang. Moon said that his upcoming summit with Kim must include another "big step" towards denuclearizing the Korean Peninsula.
Every year on September 9, North Korea celebrates its birthday by holding a military parade in the capital, Pyongyang. Unlike previous years, this year the regime chose to refrain from showing off its long-range missiles and instead exhibited projects that highlighted the country's economic achievements.
The Democratic People's Republic of Korea, as the North is officially known, was proclaimed on September 9, 1948, three years after the former Soviet Union and the United State divided the peninsula between them in the closing days of World War II. The peninsula has remained split since the 1950-53 Korean War, which ended in an armistice rather than a peace treaty.
On Sunday, thousands of North Korean troops, followed by artillery and military tanks, paraded through Pyongyang, but the celebration lacked the usual jingoism that has been associated with the isolated regime for decades. Immediately after the parade, thousands of citizens rallied through Kim Il Sung Square, displaying economic themes and calls for Korean reunification.
Civilian groups carried flags and flowers in a bid to demonstrate a softer image of the country. "It looks like the North Koreans really tried to tone down the military nature of this," Chad O'Carroll, managing director of Korea Risk Group, told the Agence France-Presse news agency. Any display of intercontinental ballistic missiles would cast doubt on its commitment to denuclearization, he added.
North Koran leader Kim Jong Un was present at the parade but did not address the assembled crowd. He showed off his country's friendship with China by raising the hand of President Xi Jinping's envoy as they saluted the crowd together afterwards.
In a historic meeting with US President Donald Trump in June, Kim pledged to work toward denuclearizing the Korean peninsula. But Kim's efforts to ease tensions with the US have stalled since the Singapore meeting. While Washington insists Pyongyang commits to denuclearization first, the Kim regime wants the removal of sanctions and a peace agreement with the South to end the Korean War.
South Korean President Moon Jae-in, who will meet Kim for a summit in Pyongyang on September 18, will try to persuade the North Korean leader to take concrete steps toward denuclearization. On September 5, Kim said he wanted to denuclearize during US President Donald Trump's first term, to which Trump replied on Twitter: "We will get it done together."
Trump, Kim planning next meeting
On Monday, the White House announced that the US and North Korea are currently preparing for a second summit between US President Donald Trump and Kim. Officials did not provide further details about when such a summit would take place.
Washington and Pyongyang are at an impasse about how to follow through on an agreement reached at the first Trump-Kim summit in Singapore earlier this summer.
During the June summit, both agreed generally to denuclearization on the Korean Peninsula, but did not set out a concrete plan for following through.
Although Pyongyang dismantled its nuclear and rocket testing sites, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and a UN report said there has been little to no evidence that North Korea has scaled back its nuclear program. The US has also demanded that North Korea take more serious steps.
Kim has reportedly said that any denuclearization efforts on his part must be reciprocated by the US, such as a declaration ending the 1950-1953 Korean War.
rs/kms (AP, dpa)
The South Korean participants, who had been selected by a computerized lottery system, were taken by bus to North Korea's Mount Kumgan resort in the demilitarized zone (DMZ) separating the two Koreas. Waiting lists for the reunions are long and as the would-be participants are often aged, some never get the chance: Last year alone, 3,800 South Koreans died without ever seeing their relatives
The reunions were started after a historic North-South summit in 2000. Twenty have been held since then, with the last occurring in 2015. The meetings take place at moments when there is a thaw in relations between the two former warring nations. The system used to select the North Korean participants is unknown, but is thought to be based on loyalty to the regime.
The participants will be allowed to meet six times for a total of 11 hours during their three-day stay, according to the South Korean news agency Yonhap. Four of the originally 93 families from the South that were selected ended up cancelling, as family members were too ill to make the journey to the North.
Families were brutally rent asunder by the Korean War, which ended in an armistice rather than a peace treaty, meaning that the two Koreas are theoretically still at war. The Korean Peninsula remains divided by the DMZ. Many South Koreans with relatives in the North, like this man, cherished the photos that reminded them of their loved ones during the long separation.
Many of the participants are frail with age, but their burning desire to see their loved ones again has given them the strength necessary to undertake the journey. The meetings have in the past brought together siblings, parents and children and husbands and wives. But such meetings between immediate family members are getting rare. Most are now with close relatives such as cousins.
As could be expected, the meetings can be highly emotional experiences — they are likely to be the only, and last, time relatives get to see each other.
Many South Koreans bring presents of clothing, medications and food for their relatives in the North, whose population lives in relative poverty. But the most important gift is simply the fact that they can see and hold one another.