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Preparation committee must take a broad perspective for summit meetings

Preparation committee must take a broad perspective for summit meetings

Posted March. 16, 2018 08:06,   

Updated March. 16, 2018 08:06


The line-up of a preparation committee for the inter-Korean summit in April has been drawn up. The committee will consist of eight members, including presidential Chief of Staff Im Jong-seok, Unification Minister Cho Myoung-gyun, National Security Office chief Chung Eui-yong, presidential chief of staff for policy Jang Ha-sung, Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-wha, Defense Minister Song Young-moo, National Intelligence Service (NIS) Director Suh Hoon and Minister of the Office for Government Policy Coordination Hong Nam-ki. Considering the timing that the government signed a provisional contract to open a press center for domestic and foreign correspondents at KINTEX in Ilsan, Gyeonggi Province, it is likely that the summit meeting will take place sometime between April 24 and 26.

Back in 2007, Moon Jae-in, then presidential Chief of Staff for President Roh Moo-hyun, took the role of a head of a promotion committee of the second inter-Korean summit, but the scope of agreement was so vast that the “October 4 Joint Declaration,” the crowning achievement of the summit meeting, was not implemented in the end. The first inter-Korean summit, which was held in 2000, caused controversy later as it turned out that unlawful funds had been sent to the North as a quid pro quo. The incumbent administration must never obsess with the outcome nor make similar mistakes.

The upcoming meeting is different than the two previous talks with Pyongyang as it is a preliminary gathering for a summit meeting between North Korea and the United States. Inter-Korean agendas, such as economic cooperation and cultural exchange, will be unavoidable but limited or conditional, given the intense levels of U.N. sanctions currently imposed on North Korea. More importantly, the inter-Korean summit will have to be a venue for a preparatory discussion on North Korea’s nuclear and missile programs, which takes into account the stance of the United States as well as the two Koreas. As the scale of agenda has expanded, it is important to depart from the old framework and assume a broad perspective encompassing not only the relations between North and South Korea, but Washington’s respective relationship with Seoul and Pyongyang.

Unfortunately, the summit meetings on the Korean Peninsula have not contributed much to improving inter-Korean relationship cumulatively. The 2000 summit meeting came under fire as the money sent to the North was used for Pyongyang’s nuclear program, and the 2007 meeting caused controversy over comments on the North Limit Line in the Yellow Sea. Even the partial improvement of relations was eclipsed by the series of controversies. Considering that Pyongyang’s nuclear program has consistently impeded the two Koreas’ relationship, it is vital to set up a more lasting foundation to improve inter-Korean relations through the upcoming summit, which will link to another summit meeting between Pyongyang and Washington.

The summit will take place in only about a month. While the two previous meetings were arranged in Pyongyang, the third meeting will be held at the truce village of Panmunjom, which is a first, and it will require highly meticulous attentions in terms of communication, protocol, press and security. The work of the preparation committee will have an impact on not only the inter-Korean summit but the summit meeting between North Korea and the United States, which in turn will affect inter-Korean relations. The preparation committee will have commit to their task more seriously as if preparing for two summit meetings.