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(EDITORIAL from Korea Times on Sept. 20)

Editorials from Korean Dailies 07:03 September 20, 2018

Substantive progress
Two Koreas should faithfully implement new agreements

The third summit between President Moon Jae-in and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un has produced substantive progress in improving inter-Korean ties and reviving the momentum for the North's denuclearization. It can be said that the two leaders have created an upbeat mood for peace and the denuclearization process on the peninsula.

On Wednesday, Moon and Kim signed the Pyongyang Joint Declaration, agreeing to take some steps toward denuclearizing the North. This agreement, the first of its kind between the two sides, is seen as a meaningful move which could lead to a breakthrough in the stalled nuclear negotiations between Pyongyang and Washington. In this regard, it is worth noting that the North has agreed to permanently shut down its Tongchang-ri missile engine testing facility and missile launch pads with the participation of international experts.

Furthermore, the North has expressed its willingness to take additional steps, such as the permanent shutdown of its Yongbyon nuclear facilities, if the U.S. takes corresponding measures. Those steps may signal that the Kim regime is willing to break the impasse with the U.S. over how the regime will denuclearize.

However, it is still unclear that Pyongyang is ready to comply with the U.S. demand to hand over a list of its nuclear weapons, fissile material and nuclear facilities. The North has so far called on Washington to formally declare an end to the Korean War as a condition for starting the denuclearization process.

U.S. President Donald Trump welcomed the new agreements between Moon and Kim. Referring to them, he said on Twitter that there will be no rocket or nuclear testing. It is fortunate that Trump struck a positive note over the North's move. However, it is still too early to tell whether Kim will take the path to final, fully-verified denuclearization (FFVD) as demanded by Washington.

Thus, it is necessary for the U.S. and the North to resume their talks to narrow their differences over the method of denuclearization. Time is not sufficient as President Trump needs to make tangible progress in this well before the November midterm elections in the U.S.

Against this backdrop, Trump is required to work more closely with Moon to realize their shared goal of the compete denuclearization of the North. Trump also needs to hold a second summit with Kim to persuade him to give up his nuclear arsenal in return for security guarantees. On its part, the North should no longer drag its feet in dismantling its nuclear weapons.

Besides the denuclearization issue, Moon and Kim also agreed to ease military tensions and develop better ties. They have promised to resume operations of the now-closed Gaeseong Industrial Complex and restart the suspended Mount Geumgang tourism project, if certain conditions are met. Also notable is their commitment to seek to jointly host the 2032 Summer Olympic Games.

Now it is time for the two Koreas to translate the new agreements into action. They must ensure that accelerating inter-Korean detente should keep pace with the North's denuclearization. We hope Kim Jong-un will visit Seoul soon, possibly within this year, as he promised, to usher in a new era for peace and co-prosperity on the peninsula. Yet he should not forget that denuclearization holds the key.

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