Beginning with a smile and handshake shared by President Moon Jae-in and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un at the DMZ border, the inter-Korean summit marked a diplomatic breakthrough for the two countries last month. Despite minor instabilities in foreign relations, the development of sweeping pledges and further discussion between the two leaders kindled cautious hopes for reconciliation and nuclear disarmament across the world. Amidst the erratic on-and-off of the peace talks, the historic summit set the tone for an even more critical meeting between Kim and President Donald Trump in Singapore on June 12.
The inter-Korean summit marked a significant change in the history of the diplomacy of North Korea,” said Andrew Shin (10), US history student. “However, whether or not the US-NK summit will reap equally effective successes is quite uncertain. North Korea’s extensive history of breaking deals, combined with the fact that the meeting will be between two volatile leaders, makes the outcome of this upcoming summit wholly unpredictable.”
While Trump initially cancelled the meeting on May 24, blaming the Pyongyang regime for its “tremendous anger and open hostility” displayed in a recent news statement, he was quick to turn back on his decision two days later. The withdrawal of the abrupt change was shortly preceded by a surprise meeting held in the DMZ between Moon and Kim, succeeding in its attempt to salvage the potential US-NK summit and bringing back prospects for diplomatic progress. Although differing in its constituents, the summit will mainly revolve around the discussion of key issues such as denuclearization and economic sanctions, continuing talks for peace on the Korean peninsula. With Moon already having held out progressive measures to withdraw troops from inside the DMZ and create a joint fishing zone around the disputed western sea border, Trump has also reaffirmed his support of the South’s diplomatic stance for future progress. On his Twitter, Trump expressed enthusiasm for the “warm and productive statement from North Korea,” mentioning his prospects for “long and enduring prosperity and peace.”
“Although North Korea is well known for breaching international standards and may not be the best nation to trust, I think that the US-NK summit could be effective,” said Leonard Lee (10), MUN member. “I feel that after controlling a dictatorial regime with fear mongering politics for such a long time, Kim Jong-un has enough authority in North Korea to be able to make a radical change toward diplomacy without other people threatening his power. Thus, I think that this event is an opportunity for positive changes to be made, both in terms of domestic and international peace.”
Back in April, Kim and Moon vowed to negotiate a treaty in replacement of the truce that had maintained tense peace relations for over six decades after the Korean War. Displaying a cordial atmosphere and even candid jocularity, the inter-Korean summit further spurred on the pursuit of peace deals for the diplomatic agenda. While both the US and South Korea denied economic negotiations until concrete actions for nuclear reduction were taken by North Korea, peace efforts have been made on all sides ahead of the expected summit, including plans for Moon to visit Pyongyang in the fall and the release of US prisoners by the North. Yet, despite the magnitude of such progress made by the nations, skeptics have voiced doubts on the validity of the North’s commitments relative to its wide scope of ambition. With the date of the summit approaching closer, whether the negotiations will lead to another stalemate or complete denuclearization still stands in obscurity as the world watches in silence.
“I think the outcome of this summit will mirror that of the South and North Korean summit that took place recently,” said Sky Park (12), MUN chair. “There will be grand declarations made in the name of peace and vague statements of commitment in producing peace in the peninsula. But I still hope that some concrete change, some concrete resolution will be achieved or at least put into motion. This issue is a multifaceted one, which cannot be resolved in one sitting and one summit—it could be the start of something, but I have my speculations.”