North and South Korea to hold first summit in over 10 years
North and South Korea have agreed to hold their first summit in more than a decade. The meeting will happen on the 27th of April in Panmunjeom (Joint Security Area, JSA), on the southern side of the Demilitarized Military Zone.
The meeting between South Korean president Moon Jae-in and his counterpart Kim Jong-un will mark the first time a North Korean leader will set foot in the South since the end of the Korean war.
Even though there's no official agenda for the meeting yet, talks will likely include the sensitive issue of denuclearizing the Korean peninsula, something Kim Jong-un has suggested he is open to.
Acording to Antoine Bondaz, a Research Fellow at the Foundation for Strategic Research, President Moon Jae-in had two reasons for bringing the North to the negotiating table: improving inter-Korean relations and serving as a moderator in the upcoming talks between the U.S. and North Korea.
Agathe l'homme, an analyst with the Economist Intelligence Unit believes denuclearization will be on the table, but does not expect any major breakthrough. Instead, she mentions this meeting could help restore relations between the Koreas.
"I think smaller concessions could take place at that summit," she says. "From a Korean perspective, achieving a level of diplomatic relations that would be conducive of finally signing a peace treaty or maybe restoring economic relations with the North. We could also see North Korea agree to not test any more missiles, for example, or have more exchanges between families that have been separated after the war," she concludes.
The role of China
China, which is the North's key partner, has welcomed the summit, saying improved relations between the Koreas will help promote regional peace and stability.
The relationship between both countries has soured in the last few months, because of Pyongyang's weapons program, but Kim Jong-un's surprise and very secretive visit to Beijing this week seems to have rekindled their friendship.
For professor Bondaz, China will not be a direct part of future negotiations, but could help consolidate a deal.
"South Korea made it possible for the DPRK and the U.S. to initiate dialogue. China could make it possible to have a deal if they are supportive of it. I mean, if some countries need to give some incentives to the DPRK, pay the bill of the agreement, China can be part of the solution," he explains.
North Korean upper hand
Deal or no deal, Agathe l'Homme believes North Korea has the upper hand in the two separate meetings with Seoul and Washington.
"North Korea probably has a good hand right now. They might start to feel the UN sanctions impacting in their economy. But from a military point of view they have a very good hand. They have shown the evidence of their military might over the last few years and they're also able to count on a very pro-engagement South Korean leader," she explains.
"They also raised the stakes with Donald Trump, who on his side has a less clear picture of what his administration can achieve, and on the Chinese side, maybe China did enforce sanctions towards North Korea but they also rekindled their friendship, or at least the appearance of it," concludes the analyst.
North and South Korean officials will hold a meeting next Wednesday to discuss the finer details of the upcoming summit, such as security and media arrangements.
RFI with Taise Parente
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