Inter-Korean summit should aim for peace treaty, says minister

Two Koreas discussing plans to announce official end to military conflict, newspaper suggests

South Korean culture minister Do Jong-whan: “A peace treaty should be signed in the inter-Korean summit so that we can build peace and ensure peaceful coexistence.” Photograph:  Jeon Heon-Kyun/EPA

South Korean culture minister Do Jong-whan: “A peace treaty should be signed in the inter-Korean summit so that we can build peace and ensure peaceful coexistence.” Photograph: Jeon Heon-Kyun/EPA

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A South Korean government minister said on Tuesday that the goal of the forthcoming inter-Korean summit should be to sign a peace treaty, amid high expectations for the first meeting between the leaders of the divided countries in a decade.

The comments by culture minister Do Jong-whan came as the country’s conservative newspaper Munwha Ilbo said the two Koreas were discussing plans to announce an official end to the military conflict on the peninsula.

“A peace treaty should be signed in the inter-Korean summit so that we can build peace and ensure peaceful coexistence,” Mr Do told foreign media. “But it is unclear whether this will be achieved at this summit. If they can’t, they should meet again to sign the treaty.”

Citing an unidentified South Korean official on Tuesday, the Munwha Ilbo report said that South Korean president Moon Jae-in and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un might release a joint statement after their summit on April 27th stating they would seek to ease military tension and to end confrontation.

The two Koreas have yet to sign a peace treaty to replace the 1953 armistice that ended combat operations in the Korean war, with the US and North Korea still at loggerheads after the three-year conflict ended. The peninsula remains technically at war with a heavily fortified border separating the two countries.

Differences of opinion

Experts said it would be difficult for the two sides to sign the peace treaty, given the differences of opinion on how to sign the deal. “It is hard to expect the two leaders to sign the deal this time as they remain far apart on who and how to sign it,” said Yang Moo-jin, a professor at the University of North Korean Studies.

“If they can agree on the principle that the two sides will co-operate to denuclearise the Korean peninsula and establish permanent peace, we can call it a success,” Prof Yang added. “Then the detailed plans to execute the goals can be discussed at the North Korea-US summit.”

Seoul has said the peace treaty should be signed by the two Koreas, guaranteed by the US and China with support from Russia and Japan, and later approved by the UN. But Pyongyang has insisted that the two Koreas should sign a non-aggression treaty and a peace treaty should be signed between North Korea and the US.

Seoul’s unification minister has said the two leaders’ agenda will cover three main areas: denuclearisation, establishing a permanent peace and improving inter-Korean relations.

Mr Moon hopes that his summit with Mr Kim can lay the foundation for a deal on denuclearisation between Washington and Pyongyang at the following summit between Mr Kim and US president Donald Trump in May or early June.

Special envoy

The South’s presidential Blue House said on Tuesday that Seoul might send special envoys to North Korea if necessary to ensure the success of the highly anticipated summit.

Im Jong-seok, the presidential chief of staff, said the inter-Korean summit would be a historic event because it would be the first time a North Korean leader had set foot on South Korean soil.

The third inter-Korean summit, following two previous meetings in 2000 and 2007, will be held on the South Korean side of the truce village of Panmunjom.

Mr Im added that a direct hotline between the two leaders would be operational by Friday for possible trials before the summit.

The two Koreas will hold working-level talks on Wednesday to discuss details such as protocol and security before holding another high-level meeting to prepare for the summit. – Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2018

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