Two Koreas Mark Moon-Kim summit anniversary in different tones
North and South Korea Saturday struck different notes as they marked the first anniversary of a summit between their leaders that fueled a whirlwind of diplomacy which has died down amid deadlock over Pyongyang’s denuclearization.
Kim Jong Un and President Moon Jae-in held their first meeting on April 27 last year in the Demilitarized Zone dividing the peninsula amid a rapid diplomatic thaw, paving the way for a historic summit between Kim and U.S. President Donald Trump in Singapore in June.
But one year later, little progress has been made on North Korea’s nuclear weapons, with Pyongyang and Washington deadlocked since a second summit between Trump and Kim in Hanoi in February broke down without a deal.
Moon, who brokered the first meeting between the two mercurial leaders, has tried to salvage the diplomacy although the North has remained largely unresponsive.
North Korea did not respond to the South’s invitation this week for Saturday’s ceremony at Panmunjom – where Moon and Kim exchanged warm smiles and hugs – to commemorate their landmark meeting last year.
Instead, the North’s Committee for the Peaceful Reunification of the Country, which handles inter-Korean relations, urged Seoul Saturday to take “more active measures” to improve ties.
The Moon-Kim summit a year ago had restarted the “ticking of the reunification clock”, it said, but the U.S. was pressuring Seoul to lock steps in their approach towards the nuclear-armed North.
“A grave situation is being created that may see a return to the past of reaching catastrophe in the thickening dangers of war,” it said in a lengthy statement carried by the official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA).
At Saturday’s ceremony, musicians from South Korea, the US, Japan and China performed at the South’s side of Panmunjom.
Both Moon and Kim were absent at the low-key event, which was attended by some 500 diplomats, government officials and civilians.
“This is a new path, and as we all must take it together, we need, sometimes, to wait for those moving slower to catch up,” Moon said in a video message.
The meeting last April – the first inter-Korean summit in 11 years – was high on headline-grabbing symbolism, with Moon stepping briefly into the North and the two sharing an intimate one-on-one woodland chat before live TV cameras.
The pair met twice more last year – the second, an impromptu encounter after Trump threatened to cancel the Singapore summit just weeks before it was due, and Moon flew to Pyongyang for his third meeting with Kim.
Cross-border exchanges increased, several guard posts either side of the border were dismantled, and a reunion was held for families separated by the decades-old Korean War.
But little substantive progress has been made on the North’s denuclearization and exchanges between Seoul and Pyongyang have significantly cooled after the collapse of Kim’s second summit with Trump.
Since Hanoi, the North has not attended any of the weekly meetings of the heads of their joint liaison office in Kaesong, and has not taken part in other joint projects.
Still, Moon — who has long backed engagement with the nuclear-armed North — offered earlier this month to meet Kim for a fourth summit at any time and said he will continue efforts to restart suspended joint economic projects.
South Korea on Saturday opened to the public one of the three new hiking trails along the DMZ – in the eastern coastal county of Goseong – for the first time since the end of the 1950-53 Korean War.
‘Dream and reality’
A commentary carried by the South’s conservative Dong-A Ilbo newspaper Saturday noted that inter-Korean relations have returned to the “old pattern” where Seoul unilaterally tries to engage Pyongyang despite being repeatedly snubbed by its neighbor.
“A year ago, the North Korean leader appeared to listen attentively to the words of President Moon on the footbridge (at Panmunjom), but now he is blatantly ignoring the South,” the paper said.
“The celebration event held only by South Korea today presents both dream and reality of the first anniversary,” it added.
Kim slammed the South in a speech to his country’s rubber stamp legislature earlier this month, saying it should not “pose as a meddlesome ‘mediator’ and ‘facilitator'” between the U.S. and the North.
A commentary carried by KCNA Saturday also slammed the South’s joint military drills with the U.S., warning Seoul and Washington to be “mindful that their thoughtless saber-rattling will bring miserable repentance and catastrophic results only.”
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