Second Moon-Kim meeting
Surprise summit shows two leaders are building trust
President Moon Jae-in met North Korean leader Kim Jong-un on the northern side of Panmunjeom Saturday at Kim's request. The surprise meeting came only a month after their first meeting on the southern side of the truce village, producing the Panmunjeom Declaration aimed at eventually ending the 1950-53 Korean War and establishing permanent peace on the Korean Peninsula.
The second Moon-Kim meeting came after U.S. President Donald Trump said he would cancel a summit with the North Korean leader, which had been planned for June 12, in an open letter last week to Kim, after the two countries' continued spats over North Korea's denuclearization.
The cancellation came shortly after talks in Washington between Moon and Trump, which caused huge disappointment for many Koreans who had hoped for a U.S.-North Korean summit to pave the way for peace on the peninsula.
The second Moon-Kim meeting took place without notice. The local media learned of it after the two-hour meeting was over and Moon held a press conference Sunday. He relayed what was discussed and took questions from reporters. Although some of his answers were still vague, particularly regarding North Korea's full commitment to denuclearization, the meeting had very special meaning for three reasons.
First, the meeting was a follow-up measure to the April 27 inter-Korean summit where the two leaders agreed to meet "any time, anywhere" to discuss common issues regarding the Korean people.
It is unprecedented for the leaders of the two Koreas to meet back to back. The first two inter-Korean summits in 2000 and 2007 ended up being one-time events because former North Korean leader Kim Jong-il did not reciprocate the visits to Pyongyang by former Presidents Kim Dae-jung and Roh Moo-hyun.
The consecutive meetings between Moon and Kim give assurance to Koreans that the President is doing a good job in managing inter-Korean relations even under negative circumstances surrounding the peninsula, such as the unforeseen announcement regarding the planned U.S.-North Korea summit in Singapore.
Second, the second Moon-Kim meeting revives momentum for Moon's determination to be in the "driver's seat" in realizing peace. His critics have been skeptical of this. Such criticism seemed justified, particularly after Trump's letter to cancel the Singapore meeting. By getting together with Kim right after such an unexpected development, Moon is showing that he is not afraid to take charge and create solutions when a problem arises regarding the fate of the two Koreas.
Third, the latest inter-Korean summit sets a fantastic example for the future. "For a long time, I have stressed that we must meet regularly to resolve conflict and seek direct communication," Moon said during his press conference at Cheong Wa Dae, Sunday. He said in this regard, he placed as much significance to this meeting, which was like "a regular day among friends," as the first meeting. "This is how the leaders of the two Koreas should meet," Moon said.
We could not agree more with the President on the need for the Korean leaders to set aside protocol and communicate as often as they can to build trust and expedite peace talks.
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