Joint Declaration by Moon Jae-in & Kim Jong Un
On Wednesday the 19th, a joint statement by the leaders of the Koreas was signed and ratified. It contained new and exciting information designed to reaffirm each sides commitment to the Panmunjom declaration signed earlier this year, and saw new concessions by Pyongyang, showing a willingness to continue the process of disarmament and peace on the Korean peninsula. Experts have warned however that none of the proposals by Pyongyang are irreversible and come at a cost, despite being significant to the progress of the stalled US-DPRK negotiations. The talks have also been a major milestone in inter-korean relations, helping to move the situation forward towards the normalisation of diplomatic relations. The statement showed willingness, however, with many of the key details on actual denuclearisation-related policy reliant on concessions from Washington, how this is taken by the United States negotiating team remains to be seen.
Some of the major details of the declaration include the dismantling of the Tongchang-ri missile development and testing site, the main site for missile launches and tests since 2012, in the presence of international inspectors. Whilst this is not the only testing site, the DPRK previously launched a missile from Sunan airport where Moon landed on Tuesday, it is a symbolic step that the DPRK is willing to take the first step in making small concessions to the US in order to jump-start stalled negotiations. Kim Jong Un also announced willingness to close Yongbyon, the main nuclear development centre in Pyongyang if the US were to take ‘reciprocal action’, specifics of which are unclear, and this major concession would likely require a significant action from the US before it was achieved. The atmosphere of detente between the Koreas also led to more symbolic announcements between the two sides. Moon Jae-in and Kim Jong Un announced they would attempt to participate in Tokyo 2020 as a joint Korean team and launch a bid to co-host the 2032 summer olympics, the IOC has said it will support this venture fully. Most notably, Chairman Kim Jong Un responded warmly to President Moon Jae-in’s invite to visit Seoul, saying he will do so in the ‘near future’. This would mark a major milestone. No leader of the DPRK has ever visted the capital of the south. Many assuming the only time it could occur, would be during a time of war if Seoul were invaded by the North, however in . this new atmosphere of diplomacy and peacemaking on both sides, this significant moment could be in the pipelines. A second summit with US President Trump has also been signalled as a future possibility as all sides have noted the legal jeopardy of the US executive and are pushing to reach a stable agreement which cannot be reversed in the case of a sudden change in administration.
The international community lauded the announcements coming out of Pyongyang with the US President tweeting “Kim Jong Un has agreed to allow Nuclear inspections, subject to final negotiations, and to permanently dismantle a test site and launch pad in the presence of international experts. In the meantime there will be no Rocket or Nuclear testing. [Remains of US casualties] to continue being returned home to the United States. Also, North and South Korea will file a joint bid to host the 2032 Olympics. Very exciting”. Despite the lack of concrete steps to denuclearise, these are the optics that President Trump wants going into the mid-terms. It was predicted that anything that could be seen as a win would be capitalised on by the administration to boost poll-numbers before November. Other reactions to the news included Xinhua, state news outlet of the PRC, which announced the success of the summit and rattled through the fine details of the joint declaration, expressing support and praise. It is difficult to imagine any regional or global player viewing the outcome negatively, whilst some may not consider it to have contained any major victories.
The declaration, much like previous announcements and documents of it’s kind, is sparse on detail. Kim Jong Un affirmed his commitment to the original Panmunjom declaration, declaring it as vital groundwork to future inter-Korean relations. Moon Jae-in announced he and Kim Jong Un arrived at a consensus on how to best denuclearise the peninsula, however it is unclear what the DPRK is expecting in return. Recently, President Trump posited the idea of removing the US forces in Korea, a move which would be a major win for the DPRK, and more broadly China, and was considered so far-flung as an idea, that it was not even raised in a serious capacity at the summit with Trump in Singapore. No doubt the South and North Korean negotiation teams have spread the fine details of the agreement to their allies and with any luck, this will push all sides back towards the negotiation table.
Other major agreements included a joining of the railway networks of both Koreas to allow more reunions between families and cooperation on issues such as the economy and healthcare. The sides will also establish a buffer or ‘peace’ zone at the DMZ to prevent military clashes which have occurred along the border and the northern limit line since their inception.
It is likely that the next requirement from the United States will be their cooperation in the formulation and ratification of a formal peace deal, however it is unclear how willing they are to do this before any major steps towards denuclearisation are made, but we shall have to wait and see how developments progress. Overall, this meeting has produced significant results for inter-korean ties, and whether or not it has succeeded in breaking through the blockages which have stalled the US-DPRK relations, remains to be seen.