South Korean President Moon Jae-in and his almost 200 member delegation have completed their first day of summit talks in Pyongyang, North Korea. While it's the third face-to-face meeting between Moon and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un this year, this inter-Korean summit also celebrated a number of firsts, according to South Korean spokesman Yoon Young-chan.
Yoon told reporters Tuesday's events marked the first time Kim Jong Un has opened a summit in Pyongyang. The military band, he added, welcomed the South Korean delegation with music usually reserved for the upper echelon of North Korea’s leadership.
It was also a first when Moon and Kim walked along the red carpet at Pyongyang’s Sunan International Airport and the South Korean leader inspected North Korean troops.
Summit talks and first lady visits
Following the welcome ceremony at the airport and separate lunches, the first session of the inter-Korean summit began at 3:45 p.m. local time, in the headquarters of the Central Committee of the North Korean Worker's Party.
Prior to the leaders’ summit, Moon’s wife, Kim Jung-sook departed for Okyu Children's Hospital at 2:30 p.m. accompanied by Kim’s wife, Ri Sol Ju.
Yoon Young-chan told reporters the pair would sign a guest book, view an X-ray or CT room, and possibly speak with children during their visit. They then traveled to the Kim Won Gyun University of Music and were accompanied by composer Kim Hyung-suk and K-pop stars Ailee and Zico. Choi Tae Young, president of the College of Music, welcomed the delegation who escorted them around the facility.
Other South Korean envoys met with the chairperson of the Supreme People's Assembly, Kim Young-nam, Tuesday afternoon, while business leaders met with Deputy Prime Minister of Ri Yong Nam.
Leaders from three of Seoul’s political parties were scheduled to meet the Vice Chairman of the Supreme People's Assembly, An Dong Chun. Delegates who represent civil society sectors met with Kim Young Dae, chairman of the Social Democratic Party.
Following the summit, President Moon and the South Korean delegation will watch a performance of the Samjyun Orchestra at the Pyongyang Grand Theater, located on the Daedong River in Pyongyang.
The day is expected to conclude at 9 p.m following a welcome banquet in Mokran Hall, a special facility dedicated to hosting foreign officials.
During Tuesday’s afternoon briefing to reporters, Yoon said it was unclear how much progress would be made on denuclearization issues and that it would be necessary to wait until after Wednesday’s talks before any conclusions, if any, would be announced.
The goal of lasting peace
The primary focus of Moon's trip is to address ways to reduce tension on the Korean Peninsula and avoid armed conflict between the two countries. His second priority is to “facilitate North Korea-United States dialogue for denuclearization.”
Moon says denuclearizing the Korean Peninsula cannot be achieved without direct talks been Kim and U.S. President Donald Trump.
“I have confirmed the true will of Chairman Kim Jong Un and President Trump several times. I believe that the denuclearization issue can be progressed at a rapid pace if the two leaders face each other again and talk,” said Moon.
Yoon Young-chan said Moon would relay the outcome of his denuclearization discussions with Kim directly to President Trump during the United Nations General Assembly later this month.
Handong Global University Professor Kim Joon-hyung called the third inter-Korean summit an extension of the first, during a Monday panel discussion in Seoul. We need to have “a more concrete agreement on inter-Korean relationships and reducing the [military tension],” he said.
Citing the lack of progress on U.S.-North Korean dialog, Kim said, “[South Korea] needs to have some kind of mediating role to [continue dialog].”
He said that is contingent on what types of concession Moon can get from his North Korean counterpart and share with Trump.
Kim Hyun-wook, a professor at the Korea National Diplomatic Academy, told reporters at the same event that he thinks officials “have communicated most of the outcomes of [the] summit meeting.”
However, if no agreements come out of the summit, Kim Hyun-wook said, “I don’t think there will be a meaningful summit between the ROK (South Korea) and the U.S. at the [United Nations General Assembly]. There will be no U.S.-North Korea [second] summit meeting, [and] no peace declaration.”
He said if that happens, coupled with a potential midterm election defeat for U.S. Republicans, “that would be disastrous.”
Lee Ju-hyun contributed to this report.