In what would amount to a stunning development, North and South Korea are in discussions to announce at next week’s leaders’ summit an official end to the military conflict between the two neighbors, which remain technically at war, the South’s Munhwa Ilbo daily reported Monday, citing an unidentified “key” South Korean official.
The April 27 summit between South Korean President Moon Jae-in and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un — the third-ever meeting of leaders from the two Koreas — may see the pair release a joint statement saying that they will seek to ease military tensions and to end the confrontation, according to the official.
The report said the focus of the inter-Korean summit’s agenda would be threefold: denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula, a peace deal, and progress in inter-Korean relations.
No peace treaty has been signed to replace the 1953 armistice that ended the Korean War, and the U.S. and North Korea have been at loggerheads since formal hostilities ceased.
South Korean soldiers stand guard at the border truce village of Panmunjom in the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) dividing the two Koreas on January 9, 2018. North Korea said it was willing to send athletes and a high-level delegation to the forthcoming Winter Olympics in the South on January 9, as the rivals held their first official talks in more than two years after high tensions over Pyongyang's nuclear weapons program.AFP/Getty Images
The Munha Ilbo report said one possible way of ending the conflict could involve reverting the heavily fortified Demilitarized Zone that bisects the two Koreas to its original state. Both sides maintain large contingents of troops at the DMZ.
Kim and U.S. President Donald Trump are expected to hold their own summit talks sometime next month or in June. U.S. officials have said those talks would focus on denuclearizing the North.
A successful Moon-Kim summit could help pave the way for the Trump-Kim meeting, which would be the first between a sitting U.S. president and a North Korean leader.
According to the Munha report, the South Korean government official also said Moon and Kim were expected to hold in-depth discussions on the possibility of hosting a “second inter-Korean summit” next year.
Trump agreed last month to the landmark summit with the nuclear-armed North, but a specific date or venue has not been set.
The recent thaw between Seoul and Pyongyang follows months of soaring tensions as the North conducted its most powerful nuclear test and launched more than 20 missiles — including two intermediate-range weapons that flew over Japan and another long-range missile that experts say puts the whole of the United States in striking distance. With the test of that long-range missile in November, the North said it had “realized the great historic cause of completing the state nuclear force.”
©2018 the Japan Times (Tokyo). Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.