With the restoration of the communication line between the two Koreas as the starting point, the government is starting to prepare for an inter-Korean summit at the end of President Moon Jae-in’s term.
In particular, the official position of the Blue House is that “there was no specific discussion about holding an inter-Korean summit” with North Korea regarding the restoration of the communication line, but related experts say that the possibility is still ‘still It is a situation that we see as ‘remaining.
Some observers are making observations that the recent ‘theory of postponement of the ROK-US combined exercise’ by South Korean government officials is a preliminary step toward the summit, beyond the inter-Korean summit in the future.
At a meeting with reporters on the 30th of last month, a high-ranking Ministry of Unification official said, “It is desirable to postpone the (Korea-US) joint exercise, citing the re-spreading of the new coronavirus infection (COVID-19) at home and abroad. In this situation, it may be reasonable to review the postponement without overdoing it.” He said, “If training is absolutely necessary, we can do it again at an appropriate time.” For this reason, they mentioned a “flexible solution” (Minister In-Young Lee) and in fact demanded the reduction or postponement of the training. However, this time, the government inside and outside is evaluating that the intensity of the expression “postponed” has increased since it appeared directly. This official can be involved in North Korea issues through South Korea-U.S. cooperation with the recent restoration of inter-Korean communication lines. He also argued that the “right time” had come, and that “the United States must take advantage of this opportunity to prepare beneficial outcomes for denuclearization negotiations or the establishment of peace on the Korean Peninsula.”
The North Korean authorities took measures such as unilaterally blocking the communication line between the two Koreas and blowing up the inter-Korean liaison office in Kaesong over the fact that in June last year, North Korean defector groups on our side distributed leaflets criticizing North Korean leader Kim Jong-un. The inter-Korean communication line was restored on the 27th of this month.
Since then, the Ministry of Unification officially proposed to the North Koreans to discuss the establishment of a video conference system between South and North Korea, considering that North Korea is extremely reluctant to contact outsiders due to the risk of influx and spread of COVID-19. Also, on the afternoon of the 30th, South Korea approved two cases of export of humanitarian cooperation materials to North Korea requested by a private organization, and presented a ‘carrot’ to North Korea.
An official from the Ministry of Unification argued that there was no direct relationship between the ‘restoration of inter-Korean communication lines’, the ‘request to postpone the South Korea-US drills’, and the ‘approval of the export of materials to North Korea’. However, the general evaluation is that at least the direction of “I want to bring North Korea back to the table of dialogue” is consistent.
The key, however, is whether North Korea will respond. Aside from the Corona 19 issue, there is a high possibility that President Moon will not take an active stance given that he is nearing the end of his term.
In addition, since the “postponement of the ROK-U.S. drills” asserted by a high-ranking official of the Ministry of Unification is a matter that must be persuaded to the United States rather than North Korea, there are even criticisms such as “the Ministry of Unification found the wrong address” and “exceeded power”.
The fact that Defense Minister Seo Wook and US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin had a phone call at the request of the US after the remarks from the Ministry of Unification officials were reported is also not unrelated to this.
Park Won-gon, a professor of North Korean studies at Ewha Womans University, said, “It will be difficult to postpone the training that is only a few days away.”
In particular, Professor Park said, “Although North Korea has shown some willingness to improve inter-Korean relations by restoring the ferry, it has not yet revealed its position on dialogue with the United States.” It will be difficult to accept.”
The annual South Korea-U.S. drills have been significantly curtailed since the first summit between North Korean leader Kim Jong-un and then-US President Donald Trump in June 2018.
In particular, the ROK and U.S. military conducted large-scale field exercise training (FTX) in the first half of the year while conducting computer simulation-based ballistic training (CPX) twice in the first and second half, but now only twice a year CPX is being conducted. .
Even this, the training in the first half of last year was canceled due to the Corona 19 epidemic, and the training in the second half of last year and the first half of this year was conducted with a reduced scale compared to the previous year. However, North Korea denounced the drill in the first half of this year, claiming that it was a “practice to invade the North.”
Also, the fact that North Korea unilaterally bombed the inter-Korean liaison office in Kaesong in June last year has not yet made an apology or promise to prevent recurrence, which is also a burden on the South Korean government.
Professor Park said, “It is not easy for our government to make any decisions, but we do not know how sincere North Korea is.”
In the midst of this, another expert who requested anonymity said, “The moment the government tries to use its North Korea policy in connection with the election ahead of the full-fledged presidential election, everything will go in vain. . North Korea is also taking that into account,” he pointed out.
“It is impossible to solve everything in five years in the 70-year history of division between the two Koreas,” the expert said.
(Seoul = News 1)
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