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Moon, Kim to meet for third summit in North Korean capital

By Wooyoung Lee
Moon, Kim to meet for third summit in North Korean capital
People view a photo of South Korean President Moon Jae-in embracing North Korean leader Kim Jong Un during their April summit at a photo exhibition in Seoul on Monday. Photo by Yonhap

SEOUL, Sept. 17 (UPI) -- South Korean President Moon Jae-in and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un will meet for their third summit on Tuesday in Pyongyang.

Moon will fly to Pyongyang Tuesday morning for the three-day summit with a 52-member delegation, including leaders of political parties and business magnates, as well as major cultural, religious figures and members of civil society.

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"President Moon is expected to arrive at Pyongyang International Airport at 10 a.m. on Tuesday and be greeted in an official welcoming ceremony. The first summit will be held after a luncheon," said Im Jong-seok, Moon's chief presidential secretary at a briefing in Seoul Monday.

Moon will be the third South Korean president to visit the North Korean capital. Moon's two predecessors -- Presidents Kim Dae-jung and Roh Moo-hyun -- met former North Korean leader Kim Jong Il, father of current leader Kim Jong Un, in 2000 and 2007, respectively.

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Moon and Kim will hold talks on Tuesday and Wednesday to discuss ways to advance inter-Korean relations and ease military tensions on the Korean Peninsula.

Moon is also tasked with a difficult mission to revive the stalled nuclear talks between Washington and Pyongyang.

"Moon will play a role of a mediator and facilitator to deliver thoughts of the United States to North Korea and vice versa," Im said.

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U.S. President Donald Trump asked Moon to work as "chief negotiator" to broker nuclear deals between the United States and North Korea, South Korean presidential spokesman Kim Eui-kyeom said earlier this month.

However, it remains "blank" to what extent the two leaders will discuss and agree on bringing complete denuclearization.

"That's entirely up to their honest talks," Im said.

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Moon said he will focus on reviving talks between Washington and Pyongyang and removing military tensions and fears of war between the North and South.

"I will talk with Chairman Kim frankly about how we can close differences between what the U.S. has been demanding to achieve denuclearization and the North's demand for security assurance and ending hostile relations," Moon said Monday at a senior presidential secretariat meeting.

The United States and North Korea have been at odds over what comes first in the process of denuclearization. The United States said the North should report a list of nuclear weapons first, while the North has called for an end to the 1950-53 Korean War, which ended in a truce, as the first step.

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Nuclear talks

Experts said the resumption of stalled nuclear talks between the United States and North Korea hangs on Moon's diplomatic efforts.

"It depends on the summit and how President Moon delivers Chairman Kim's sincerity [for denuclearization] to President Trump that future talks between the U.S and the North will take place," Lee Jung-chul, professor of political science at Seoul-based Soongsil University, said at an expert discussion Monday.

Moon and Trump agreed to meet during the U.N. General Assembly in New York next week.

"The summit will create a virtuous cycle if the U.S. and the North drop their unilateral demands," said Cho Sung-ryul, senior researcher at the Institute for National Security Strategy.

"Submitting a list of nuclear weapons is the start of the denuclearization process.

"But the U.S. should stop pushing it too hard with North Korea. The U.S. should also envision a future relationship with the North, as well and show efforts to carry out its pledge to declare the end of the Korean War," he added.

If North Korea carries out meaningful actions in the process of denuclearization and the United States corresponds with sanctions relief, the North will actively push for economic development, said Cho Bong-hyun, a North Korea analyst and vice director of the IBK Economic Research Institute.

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Kim pledged to push for economic development at a central committee meeting of his Worker's Party in April, a major policy shift from nuclear development to economic advancement.

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