Moon seeks to break nuclear deadlock at Pyongyang summit

Moon said that he's pushing for "irrevocable progress" on efforts to rid North Korea of its nukes by the end of this year as he prepares for his third summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. (AP/Hwang Gwang-mo/Yonhap)
Updated 16 September 2018
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Moon seeks to break nuclear deadlock at Pyongyang summit

  • The visit comes after the North put on its “Mass Games” propaganda display for the first time in five years
  • Moon was instrumental in brokering the historic summit between US President Donald Trump and Kim in Singapore in June

SEOUL: South Korean President Moon Jae-in travels to Pyongyang this week for his third summit with Kim Jong Un, looking to break the deadlock in nuclear talks between North Korea and the United States.
Moon — whose own parents fled the North during the Korean War — flies north on Tuesday for a three-day trip, following in the footsteps of his predecessors Kim Dae-jung in 2000 and mentor Roh Moo-hyun in 2007.
No details of the program have been announced, but Pyongyang is likely to pull out all the stops to create a good impression, with tens of thousands of people lining the streets to welcome him.
The visit comes after the North put on its “Mass Games” propaganda display for the first time in five years.
The new show featured imagery of Kim and Moon at their first summit in April in the Demilitarized Zone that divides the peninsula — prompting the unusual sight of tens of thousands of North Koreans in the May Day Stadium applauding pictures of Seoul’s leader.
One diplomatic source predicted the visit would see “Kim and Moon together receiving the same sort of applause.”
But while the Panmunjom summit was high on headline-grabbing symbolism, with Moon stepping briefly into the North and the two sharing an extended one-to-one woodland chat, pressure is mounting for substantive progress.
Moon was instrumental in brokering the historic summit between US President Donald Trump and Kim in Singapore in June, when Kim backed denuclearization of the “Korean peninsula.”
But no details were agreed and Washington and Pyongyang have sparred since over what that means and how it will be achieved.
At the same time the US and South have sometimes moved at radically different speeds in their approach to the North.
Moon will try again to “play the role of facilitator or mediator,” said his special adviser on foreign affairs Moon Chung-in.
“He believes that improved inter-Korean relations have some role in facilitating US-DPRK talks as well as solving the North Korean nuclear problem,” he told reporters, using the North’s official acronym.
Last month, Trump abruptly canceled a planned visit by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to Pyongyang, after the North condemned “gangster-like” demands for what it called its unilateral disarmament.
Washington has been adamant that the North carry out a “final, fully verified denuclearization” first, while Pyongyang is demanding a formal declaration from the US that the Korean War is over.
But Kim has since sent Trump a letter seeking a second summit and held a military parade for his country’s 70th birthday without showing off any intercontinental ballistic missiles, prompting warm tweets from the US president.
North Korea will want to exploit Trump’s eagerness to declare progress before the US midterm elections in November to secure concessions, said Go Myong-hyun, an analyst at the Asan Institute of Policy Studies, and will view “every meeting as a viable political opportunity” toward that goal.
But whether Pyongyang is willing to offer something concrete in return has yet to be seen.
Moon may try to convince the North Korean leader to verbally commit to providing a list of the country’s existing nuclear program, said Shin Beom-cheol, another analyst at the Asan Institute.
“It won’t be South Korea that inspects and verifies so if we can get something out of Kim Jong Un’s mouth, that will be significant,” Shin said, adding the next step could be a summit between Kim and Trump sometime in October.
Despite the deadlock in denuclearization talks, since the Panmunjom summit the two Koreas have sought to pursue joint projects in multiple fields.
But North Korea is under several different sets of sanctions for its nuclear and missile programs, hampering efforts to revive cross-border economic schemes.
The dovish South Korean president has invited the heads of the country’s largest conglomerates — including Samsung Electronics and Hyundai Motors — to accompany him to Pyongyang.
“He is sending a message to the North to speedily complete denuclearization, conclude talks with the US so that South Korea can begin full-fledged economic cooperation,” said analyst Go.
And special adviser Moon Chung-in added that the South Korean president could look to convince Kim to come up with a “somewhat radical and bold initiative,” such as dismantling some nuclear bombs, and press the US for reciprocal measures.
“And the United States should be willing to come up with major economic easing of economic sanctions,” he said.


Hong Kong bans pro-independence party

In this file photo taken on August 5, 2016, Andy Chan (R), leader of the pro-independence Hong Kong National Party (HKNP), gives a press conference at the start of a rally near the government's headquarters in Hong Kong. (AFP)
Updated 24 September 2018
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Hong Kong bans pro-independence party

  • The ban is likely to raise further questions about Beijing’s growing influence in the former British colony, which was promised semi-autonomy as part of the 1997 handover

HONG KONG: Authorities in Hong Kong on Monday took an unprecedented step against separatist voices by banning a political party that advocates independence for the southern Chinese territory on national security grounds.
John Lee, the territory’s secretary for security, announced that the Hong Kong National Party will be prohibited from operation from Monday.
Lee’s announcement did not provide further details. But Hong Kong’s security bureau had previously said in a letter to the National Party’s leader, 27-year-old Andy Chan, that the party should be dissolved “in the interests of national security or public safety, public order or the protection of the rights and freedoms of others.” Chan had no immediate comment.
That letter had cited a national security law that has not been invoked since 1997. The ban is likely to raise further questions about Beijing’s growing influence in the former British colony, which was promised semi-autonomy as part of the 1997 handover. Chinese President Xi Jinping and other officials have warned separatist activity would not be tolerated.
Chan, the National Party leader, had previously told The Associated Press that police approached him with documents detailing his speeches and activities since the party’s formation in 2016.
The party was founded in response to frustration about Beijing’s treatment of Hong Kong. Despite a promise of autonomy, activists complain mainland influence over its democratic elections is increasing.
Chan and other pro-independence candidates were disqualified from 2016 elections to the Hong Kong legislature after they refused to sign a pledge saying Hong Kong is an inalienable part of China. The Hong Kong National Party has never held any seats on the council.