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Pyongyang Inter-Korean Summit 2018: Assessment and Challenges: Defusing Inter-Korean Hostility and Driving Second DPRK-U.S. Summit
2018.10.05  Friday
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Cheong Seong-Chang

Pyongyang Inter-Korean Summit 2018: Assessment and Challenges:

 Defusing Inter-Korean Hostility and

Driving Second DPRK-U.S. Summit

 

 October 5, 2018

Dr. Cheong Seong-Chang

Vice President, Research Planning Division, the Sejong Institute

softpower@sejong.org

 

 

 

 

 

Will the Pyongyang Joint Declaration ‘Disarm’ South Korea?

 

During the Inter-Korean summit between September 18 and 20 in Pyongyang, President Moon Jae-in and Chairman Kim Jong-un signed the Pyongyang Joint Declaration that includes: removing ‘dangers of war across the entire Korean Peninsula’; resolving the hostile relations; seeking measures to ‘develop the nation’s economy in a balanced manner’ (normalizing the Kaesong Industrial Complex and the Mt. Kumgang Tourism Project when conditions are met); ‘strengthening humanitarian cooperation to fundamentally resolve the issue of separated families’; promoting cultural and artistic exchanges; striving to make substantial progress to ‘turn’ the peninsula into a land free from nuclear weapons and nuclear threats (dismantling Tongchang-ri missile engine test site and launch platform and permanently dismantling Yongbyon nuclear facilities when the U.S. takes corresponding measures); and agreeing to meet again in Seoul this year.

Immediately after the two leaders signed the joint declaration, South Korean Defense Minister Song Young Moo and North Korea’s Minister of People’s Armed Forces No Kwang-chol signed the ‘Agreement on the Implementation of the Historic Panmunjom Declaration in the Military Domain’ at the presence of the two leaders. The key details of the agreement are ceasing all hostile acts against each other in every domain, including land, air, and sea, applying a joint five-step procedure to prevent any accidental military clash, withdrawing all guard posts (GP) within the DMZ, demilitarizing the Joint Security Area (JSA), carrying out joint recovery of remains in the Cheolwon area, using the Han River Estuary jointly. The agreement contains bold and innovative terms that fundamentally precludes the possibility of accidental use of military force such as ceasing all live-fire artillery drills, live-fire and maritime maneuver exercises within the buffer zone, designating a No Fly Zone.

On such result of the Pyongyang inter-Korean summit, some South Koreans condemn that the flying pace of progress in inter-Korean ties are alarming while nothing has changed regarding the North Korean nuclear program. And on the agreement in the military domain, they also criticize that this agreement has merely disarmed South Korea while the denuclearization did not make any substantial progress. The paper closely scrutinizes whether these concerns, criticisms, or even condemnations convey rational or realistic thread of thought. It also aims to recommend the South Korean government’s domestic and foreign policy direction after the Pyongyang summit.

 

 

Assessing the Agreement in the Military Domain:

Terminating Military Hostility and Seeking Cooperation

 

While numerous experts predicted that the denuclearization issue will be the most crucial agenda prior to this summit, the termination of military hostility between the two Koreas was a more significant agenda. President Moon also elucidated, “Regarding South-North relations, military agreements are the most important results of the summit” in his address to the Nation on September 20—immediately after returning to Seoul.

The leaders of the two Koreas agreed on: improving and developing inter-Korean relations; alleviating military tensions, and removing the threat of war; establishing the peace regime on the Korean Peninsula, etc. through the Panmunjom Declaration on April 27. Nonetheless, among the three key terms of the agreement, the South Korean government focused on reaching an agreement in the military domain to alleviate military tensions and to remove the threat of war. The South Korean government seems to have approached in such a way to assure North Korea of its security — the approach that ‘it does not have to fear for its security even after it abolishes nuclear weapons.’

The two leaders also proclaimed, “South and North Korea will make joint efforts to alleviate the acute military tension and practically eliminate the danger of war on the Korean Peninsula” at the Panmunjom Declaration last April. And to achieve this end, the two sides agreed on three concrete clauses, as the following.

 

① South and North Korea agreed to completely cease all hostile acts against each other in every domain, including land, air and sea, that are the source of military tension and conflict. In this vein, the two sides agreed to transform the demilitarized zone into a peace zone in a genuine sense by ceasing as of May 1 this year all hostile acts and eliminating their means, including broadcasting through loudspeakers and distribution of leaflets, in the areas along the Military Demarcation Line.

 

② South and North Korea agreed to devise a practical scheme to turn the areas around the Northern Limit Line in the West Sea into a maritime peace zone in order to prevent accidental military clashes and guarantee safe fishing activities.

 

③ South and North Korea agreed to take various military measures to ensure active mutual cooperation, exchanges, visits and contacts. The two sides agreed to hold frequent meetings between military authorities, including the Defense Ministers Meeting, in order to immediately discuss and solve military issues that arise between them. In this regard, the two sides agreed to first convene military talks at the rank of general in May.

 

The first article of this Pyongyang Joint Declaration reads, “The two sides agreed to expand the cessation of military hostilities in regions of confrontation such as the DMZ to the substantial removal of the danger of war across the entire Korean Peninsula and a fundamental resolution of the hostile relations.” And to fulfill this goal, it stated, “The two sides agreed to fully abide by and faithfully implement the ‘Agreement on the Implementation of the Historic Panmunjom Declaration in the Military Domain’ adopted as an annex to the Pyongyang Joint Declaration, and to actively take practical measures to transform the Korean Peninsula into a zone of permanent peace.” The two leaders also added, “The two sides agreed to engage in constant communication and close consultations to review the implementation of the Agreement and prevent accidental military clashes by promptly activating the Inter-Korean Joint Military Committee.”

The defense ministers of the two Koreas endorsed the ‘Agreement on the Implementation of the Historic Panmunjom Declaration in the Military Domain’ at the Pyongyang summit. It indicates the two leaders’ determination to implement the details of the agreement through concrete measures. The two Koreas have generally observed the terms agreed in the Panmunjom Declaration — established the Inter-Korean Liaison Office in Kaesong, proceeded with the union of separated families, formulated measures to link the railways and roads between the two Koreas, suspended loudspeaker broadcasts within the military demarcation line, etc. Building on from this fact, it is likely that the two Koreas will move along with the terms agreed at this Pyongyang summit —among them, “the two sides agreed to engage in constant communication and close consultations to review the implementation of the Agreement and prevent accidental military clashes by promptly activating the Inter-Korean Joint Military Committee.”

The following is the key terms of the ‘Agreement on the Implementation of the Historic Panmunjom Declaration in the Military Domain’ that the defense ministers signed.

 

1. South and North Korea agreed to completely cease all hostile acts against each other in every domain, including land, air and sea that are the source of military tension and conflict.

• Cease various military exercises aimed at each other along the Military Demarcation Line from November 1, 2018.

• (On ground) cease all live-fire artillery drills and field training exercises at the regiment level and above within 5km from the MDL.

• (At sea) cease all live-fire and maritime maneuver exercises within the zone north of Deokjeok-do and south of Cho-do in the West Sea, and within the zone north of Sokcho and south of Tongcheon in the East Sea; the two sides also agreed to install covers on the barrels of coastal artilleries and ship guns and close all gunports within the zones.

• (In the air) ban tactical live-fire drills involving fixed-wing aircraft, including the firing of air-to-ground guided weapons within the designated No Fly Zones in the eastern and western regions of the MDL.

• Designate No Fly Zones for all aircraft types above the MDL, effective from 1 November 2018.

• Take measures to prevent any accidental military clash at all times in every domain, including land, air and sea.

• Solve all military issues through peaceful consultations by maintaining permanent communication channels in order to prevent any accidental military clash in every domain at all times, including land, air and sea and by immediately notifying each other when an abnormal situation arises.

 

2. South and North Korea agreed to devise substantive military measures to transform the Demilitarized Zone into a peace zone.

• Withdraw all Guard Posts (GP) that lie within 1km of each other completely as a preliminary measure to withdrawing all GPs within the DMZ.

• Demilitarize the Joint Security Area

• Proceed with a pilot project of an Inter-Korean Joint Operation to Recover Remains within the DMZ.

 

3. South and North Korea agreed to take military measures to prevent accidental military clashes and ensure safe fishing activities by turning the area around the Northern Limit Line in the West Sea into a maritime peace zone.

• Devise and implement inter-Korean joint patrol measures in order to deny illegal fishing and to ensure safe fishing activities for South and North Korean fishermen in the maritime peace zone and the pilot joint fishing zone.

 

4. South and North Korea agreed to devise military assurance measures necessary for invigorating exchanges, cooperation, contacts and visits.

• Establish a plan regarding issues related to permitting the use of Haeju Passage and Jeju Strait for North Korean vessels through consultations at the Inter-Korean Joint Military Committee.

 

5. South and North Korea agreed to devise various measures for mutual military confidence building.

• Continue consultations regarding the installation and operation of direct communication lines between the respective military officials.

 

The two Koreas were able to agree on dual and triple safety measures to prevent inadvertent military clash thanks to President Moon’s resolute stance to preclude the eruption of another war on the Peninsula and the deep trust built between the two leaders. The idea to ‘devise and implement inter-Korean joint patrol measures in order to deny illegal fishing and to ensure safe fishing activities for South and North Korean fishermen in the maritime peace zone and the pilot joint fishing zone’ is a pioneering thought and a paradigm shift per se — unimaginable with Cold War mindset of which the two Koreas’ army regarded each other as enemies.

 

  

Assessing the Agreement Related to Denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula: 

Fostering the Environment Favorable to the Second DPRK-U.S. Summit

 

The two leaders illuminated, “[t]he two sides shared the view that the Korean Peninsula must be turned into a land of peace free from nuclear weapons and nuclear threats, and that substantial progress toward this end must be made in a prompt manner” in the Pyongyang Joint Declaration. And they added the terms, “the North will permanently dismantle the [Tongchang-ri] missile engine test site and launch platform under the observation of experts from relevant countries” and “[th]e North expressed its willingness to continue to take additional measures, such as the permanent dismantlement of the nuclear facilities in [Yongbyon], as the United States takes corresponding measures in accordance with the spirit of the June 12 US-DPRK Joint Statement." Finally, the declaration stipulates, “[T]he two sides agreed to cooperate closely in the process of pursuing complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.”

On such details of the agreement, Some South Koreans fulminated that the only specific clause relevant to denuclearization was merely the dismantlement of the Tongchang-ri missile test site and launch platform ‘under the observation of experts from relevant countries’ and even the permanent shutdown of Yongbyon had strings attached — corresponding measures from the U.S. — and that the government exchanged the ‘end-of-war’ declaration with details that fall way short to use the expression ‘advancement in denuclearization.’ These disapprovals are somewhat understandable. As a matter of fact, it is rather distressing that North Korea only expressed intentions to negotiate on the abolishment of ‘nuclear weapons of the future’ and has not shown intent to negotiate specifically on the terms of removing the current nuclear stockpile and intercontinental ballistic missiles. Nonetheless, it is inadequate to undervalue the closure of Tongchang-ri missile engine test site, known to be the final venue to test missile engines in North Korea, as a trivial matter. Most experts in South Korea and worldwide evaluate that North Korea has not completed the development of its ICBM capability. In this situation, North Korea’s closure of the missile engine test site could be construed as North Korea’s suspension of developing the ICBM technology. Hence, this is a welcoming news to the U.S. Moreover, permanent closure of the nuclear facilities in Yongbyon cannot be deciphered as an inconsequential measure since plutonium production reactor that extracts nuclear materials, enrichment facilities, production plants for nuclear fuel rods, reprocessing facilities, research facilities, etc. are densely located in Yongbyon. It is rather unrealistic and even irrational to expect North Korea to take such measures spontaneously without any corresponding measures from the U.S.

Dr. Siegfried S. Hecker, a leading expert on the North Korean nuclear issue, specifically, the nuclear technology and the means of denuclearization, said “From my perspective, what’s more important first is to take steps that I call risk reduction. For example: no nuclear testing, no long-range missile tests and no more plutonium” in an interview with the Joong-Ang Ilbo senior journalist Bae Myung-bok. And on North Korea’s suggestion to make additional moves such as dismantling the nuclear site in Yongbyon if the U.S. takes corresponding measures in pursuant to the spirit of the June 12 Joint Declaration between the two countries, Dr. Hecker commented, “it should consider that seriously … That is a big deal; it would be a major positive, signal that they are serious. Because without plutonium, they will really not be able to have major improvements in their nuclear weapons program.”

In addition, he had different views from some critics who devalued North Korea’s offer to permanently close the nuclear installments in Yongbyon as meaningless because of its obsoleteness. He said, “It helps to have been there: I don’t agree with that. Yes, the Yongbyon facilities are old, but they are operable.” He explicated his experience visiting Yongbyon in 2010: ‘I asked the high-level nuclear scientist at the site whether they cannot operate the 5-MW reactor because it is outdated. The scientist replied with a smile that he heard the same thing in 2003 and we can resume operation. Indeed, they did resume operation in 2013. So, even though it is antiquated, it is operable and the closure of these facilities is a crucial matter.’ And regarding President Trump’s demand to submit the full list of nuclear weapons, materials, and facilities, Dr. Hecker observed, ‘the full declaration of nuclear arsenal is implausible without trust and North Korea and the U.S. has not built this level of trust yet. If North Korea submits the list, the U.S. should verify it and this takes a long time. Perhaps a list of the Yongbyon facilities would be possible early on. But the full declaration, I think, is not yet possible.’

The author also pointed out several times that North Korea’s submission of ‘full list of nuclear weapons, materials, and facilities’ is virtually impossible at this stage. If U.S. State Secretary Pompeo demanded North Korea to submit this list unilaterally without presenting U.S. ‘corresponding measures’ when he visited North Korea on July 6, this should have been a ‘gangster-like’ demand from Pyongyang’s point of view. Once North Korea declares this list, it reveals all its ‘cards’ to the U.S. Thereafter, the negotiations on denuclearization between North Korea and the U.S. will heavily tilt in U.S. favor. Therefore, the U.S. should have the ‘schedule for corresponding measures’ ready when demanding the ‘denuclearization timetable’ from North Korea.

As DPRK Foreign Minister Ri Yong-ho clarified at the 73rd UN General Assembly, “it is our position that the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula should also be realized along with building peace regime under the principle of simultaneous actions, step-by-step, starting with what we can do and giving priority to trust-building.” Consequently, it is unrealistic to expect North Korea’s unilateral denuclearization without ‘corresponding measures’ from the U.S.

Comparing the Panmunjom Declaration last April and this Pyongyang Declaration the leaders of the two Koreas agreed on, Chairman Kim’s change in attitude is evident — more closely consulting with President Moon related to the denuclearization issue. In the Panmunjom Declaration, the two Koreas remained at confirming the common goal of achieving a nuclear-free Korean Peninsula through complete denuclearization, while cooperating to establish a peace regime on the peninsula. Conversely, the Pyongyang Joint Declaration stipulates the specific measures to advance toward the complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.

Regarding this agreement related to denuclearization between the two leaders, President Trump made a positive note and Secretary Pompeo applauded President Moon’s efforts to make progress in North Korea’s denuclearization. After returning from North Korea, President Moon visited the U.S. and met with President Trump on September 24. He delivered Chairman Kim’s message, “Chairman Kim also repeatedly conveyed his unwavering trust and expectations for you, while expressing his hope to meet you soon to swiftly conclude the denuclearization process with you, because you are, indeed, the only person who can solve this problem.” And President Trump replied that the venue and time for the second DPRK-U.S. summit will be announced soon. On September 26, the U.S. Department of State issued a press release on September 26 in the name of Spokesperson Heather Nauert, making Secretary Pompeo’s visit to North Korea official, “[t]oday, Secretary Pompeo met with Foreign Minister Ri Yong Ho of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea in New York. Secretary Pompeo accepted Chairman Kim’s invitation to travel to Pyongyang next month.” And finally on October 2, the Department officially announced that Secretary Pompeo will travel to North Korea on October 7. Eventually, President Moon rescued the DPRK-U.S. relations, which were derailed after Secretary Pompeo returned from North Korea in July, back on track — inducing new measures related to denuclearization from North Korea at the Pyongyang summit and delivering Chairman Kim’s message to President Trump.

 

 

The South Korean Government’s Challenges: 

Enhancing high-level consultations among the two Koreas and the U.S. and Constituting a trans-partisan North Korea policy group

 

President Moon Jae-in made a speech in front of citizens of Pyongyang at the May Day Stadium in the evening of September 19. It was inconceivable to have this opportunity in the Kim Jong-il era. This is attributable to Chairman Kim’s great deal of trust on President Moon. In his address to the Pyongyang citizens, President Moon articulated, “We two leaders solemnly declared to 80 million Koreans and to the entire world that there would be no more war on the Korean Peninsula and that a new era of peace had opened. … Today, Chairman Kim Jong Un and I have agreed on concrete measures to completely eliminate the fear of war and the risk of armed conflicts on the Korean Peninsula. In addition, we affirmed our pledge to turn our beautiful territory from Baekdusan Mountain to Hallasan Mountain into a land of permanent peace, free from nuclear weapons and nuclear threats, and to bequeath it to our future generations.” Listening directly to the South Korean president’s speech, the citizens in Pyongyang should have sensed that the new era of peace on the Korean Peninsula is on the horizon.

Meanwhile, President Moon Jae-in and Chairman Kim Jong-un climbed the Mount Baekdu together in the morning of September 20 — an epitome that the two Koreas are a ‘community with a common destiny.’ Chairman Kim showed wholehearted sincerity with warmest welcome and hospitality to President Moon, sharing most of the time with President Moon during his visit from the arrival at Pyongyang to the final day of the summit. Given that Chairman Kim has established a strong rapport with President Moon and North Korea relies heavily on South Korean diplomatic resources to mend ties with the U.S., it is inappropriate and unconstructive to view North Korea with a ‘Cold War’ mindset. At the summit talks on September 18, Chairman Kim said, “Inter-Korean and DPRK-US relations are improving. President Moon brought us the embers of the historic DPRK-US dialogue. It is safe to say that the historic DPRK-US summit was possible thanks to President Moon. As a result, the situation on and around the Korean Peninsula has been stabilized and more progress is expected. I would like to thank you for your efforts once again.” While President Moon’s recent visits to Pyongyang and the U.S. gives the sense that North Korea and the U.S. have narrowed their views on denuclearization compared to the past, the two countries still have a vast gap between them. Therefore, the South Korean government needs to induce a detailed agreement on the timetable for the establishment of the peace regime, denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula, and the normalization of the DPRK-U.S. relations through ROK-DPRK-U.S. trilateral and ROK-DPRK-U.S.-China quadrilateral summit or high-level talks rather than leaving it all to the direct talks between North Korea and the U.S. To this end, President Moon could consider proposing Chairman Kim to visit Washington together to hold trilateral summit when Chairman Kim visits Seoul this year.

The South Korean government should spare no effort to communicate with the public and to build a national consensus on its North Korea policy — not to mention the efforts to persuade the U.S. and North Korea. As aforementioned earlier, several irrational and unreasonable views, especially, the Cold War mentality, are still embedded in some of the criticisms and concerns circulating within the South Korean society. Therefore, such efforts to establish nationwide consensus are necessary — to have the key recent achievements in inter-Korean relations evaluated properly. Especially, the serious schism among the right-wing and left-wing experts, the ruling party, the opposition political groups in their views related to inter-Korean relations — ratification of the Panmunjom Declaration at the National Assembly, assessment of the ‘Agreement on the Implementation of the Historic Panmunjom Declaration in the Military Domain,’ the ‘end-of-war’ declaration, the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula, the issue of establishing the peace regime on the Korean Peninsula, and the future development of inter-Korean relations — are domestically jeopardizing the thrust of implementing the agreement. In this context, the South Korean government should actively consider the constitution of a ‘Committee on Peaceful Development of the Korean Peninsula (tentative, or Committee on Peace and Prosperity on the Korean Peninsula)’ to have trans-partisan cooperation on inter-Korean relations and a sustainable policy toward North Korea.

 

 

 

 

This article is based on the author’s personal opinion and does not reflect the views of the Sejong Institute.

 

 


*Translator’s note: This is an unofficial translation of the original paper which was written in Korean. All references should be made to the original paper.