Denuclearisation set to top agenda at landmark Moon-Kim meet today

GOYANG, South Korea (The Straits Times/ANN) - Establishing a peace regime and improving inter-Korea ties are also on the cards as the South pulls out all stops for the historic summit.

South Korea has pulled out all the stops for today's (April 27) historic inter-Korea summit, which is expected to result in a joint agreement that experts say will weigh heavily on denuclearisation.

The final rehearsals were done on Thursday and the minutest details checked, according to South Korea's presidential Blue House.

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un will cross the Military Demarcation Line separating the two Koreas at 9.30am KST, becoming the first regime head to set foot in the South.

South Korean President Moon Jae In will be waiting for him at the truce village of Panmunjom on the southern side of the border.

The leaders will shake hands, inspect the honour guards, and walk to the Peace House for talks at an oval-shaped table that is 2,018mm wide in the middle - to highlight the "historic 2018 inter-Korea summit", said the Blue House.

The meeting - only the third of its kind - comes after a series of charm offensives since January by Pyongyang and may be followed by a highly anticipated summit between Mr Kim and United States President Donald Trump.

After their meeting, Mr Moon and Mr Kim will sign an agreement and issue a joint statement, before proceeding to dinner.

Experts said denuclearisation will top the agenda, followed by establishing a peace regime and improving inter-Korea ties.

"There has to be some kind of statement which emphasises denuclearisation and CVID will be the best scenario," Seoul National University's Professor Lee Geun said yesterday at a forum held at the inter-Korea summit press centre in Goyang city, north-west of Seoul. CVID refers to the complete, verifiable and irreversible dismantlement of the North's nuclear programme, as demanded by the US.

"If not, there should be North Korea's intention to denuclearise within a very short timeframe. But I do think North Korea would suggest its own denuclearisation plan with some conditions, and these conditions are what will matter," added Prof Lee.

Professor Moon Chung In, a special adviser to the President, said at the same forum that Mr Moon will want North Korea's commitment to denuclearise "in written form". That would be a "big progress" from the 2000 and 2007 summits, which were more focused on improving ties and economic collaboration.

It can also pave the way for "much more meaningful discussion" about establishing peace on the Korean peninsula, he added.

The Moon administration has "sent a very clear message" to North Korea that economic concessions will come only after the nuclear issue has been settled, he said.

"Unless both North Korea and South Korea make progress on nuclear and peace issues, there won't be any improvement in inter-Korea economic relationships.

"I think our government doesn't want to send the wrong signal to Washington that we could just evade the United Nations Security Council sanction resolutions. No, we will be dealing with the regime within that structural constraint. I understand that North Korea is aware of our limitations too."

Another presidential adviser, Professor Kim Joon Hyung from Handong University, said Mr Moon wants to be remembered as a peacebuilder and has made it his lifelong vision to establish peace on the Korean peninsula.

The 1950-1953 Korean War has technically not ended as a ceasefire deal was never formally replaced by a peace treaty.

Mr Moon, the son of North Korean war refugees who was elected last year on promises to improve ties with the North, was chief of staff to the late former president Roh Moo Hyun and helped plan Mr Roh's visit to Pyongyang in 2007 to meet then leader Kim Jong Il.

Prof Kim said many people see Mr Moon as a second version of Mr Roh, but the current President is "more like a pragmatist". And Mr Moon remains cautious towards the North, added Prof Kim.

"President Moon said these days whenever he sleeps, on one side there's nervousness but, at the same time, there's hopefulness and he's really keeping his fingers crossed," he told Asan Plenum, a forum organised by the Asan Institute for Policy Studies in Seoul. "As time goes by, he is more optimistic."

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