The leaders of North and South Korea are set to meet on Friday. This will be the first meeting between North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and South Korean President Moon Jae-in.
The world is wondering how much their talks will deal with North Korea’s program for developing nuclear-armed missiles.
Over the weekend, North Korea announced it would suspend nuclear tests and testing of intercontinental ballistic missiles. The North also said it plans to close its nuclear test area. But the announcement did not say whether it would give up its nuclear weapons or stop production of missiles.
On Monday, South Korea halted broadcasts of propaganda messages and Korean pop songs across the border with the North. The South Korean Defense Ministry said in a statement it wanted to ease tensions and establish an environment for peace.
The talks between the North and South Korean leaders are expected to be followed, in May or June, by a meeting between Kim Jong Un and U.S. President Donald Trump.
Failure to reach a nuclear agreement, however, would raise questions about the seriousness of Kim’s recent outreach to South Korea and the United States. It would also raise fears of conflict across the Korean peninsula.
Although North Korea has said it wants to “denuclearize” the peninsula, experts are not sure whether the country will give up its nuclear weapons. In the past, the North has linked denuclearization to a demand for the withdrawal of the 28,500 U.S. troops in South Korea.
During a trip to China last month, North Korean leader Kim suggested that he wants step-by-step disarmament in return for the lifting of economic restrictions against his country.
That, critics say, could enable the North to secretly continue its weapons programs while winning badly needed aid. North Korea did just that during nuclear talks from 2003 to 2008. Observers say Kim will likely make similar offers during his talks with Moon Jae-in as a way of reaching out to the U.S. government.
Go Myong-Hyun is with the Seoul-based Asan Institute for Policy Studies. He said the North Korean leader might also offer up a rough plan for denuclearization.
Kim has an interest in making his meeting with Moon a success. Recently, representatives of both Koreas marched together at the PyeongChang Winter Olympics and South Korean pop stars performed in Pyongyang.
North Korea – U.S. meeting
North Korea has long criticized the yearly military exercises between U.S. and South Korean forces. It claims the exercises are preparing those forces to invade the North. And it says the country needs to keep its nuclear weapons for protection.
After the country tested a long-range missile in November, Kim said North Korea had “finally realized the great historic cause of completing the state nuclear force.” But experts say the North has yet to build dependable ballistic missiles.
During his talks with Moon and Trump, Kim may demand a security guarantee for his government. He is also expected to call for the easing or lifting of international restrictions against the North. But American officials have said they want complete, verifiable and irreversible disarmament by North Korea.
The U.S. president sounded hopeful after North Korea’s announcement to suspend nuclear tests.
In a statement on social media, Donald Trump wrote, “This is very good news for North Korea and the World - big progress!” He added he is looking forward to the meeting with Kim.
But Trump wrote, “We are a long way from conclusion on North Korea, maybe things will work out, and maybe they won’t - only time will tell.”
Trump’s nominee for secretary of state, Mike Pompeo, said recently “no one is under any illusions” that we will reach a comprehensive agreement. Pompeo currently is head of the Central Intelligence Agency. Less than a month ago, he made a secret trip to North Korea and met with Kim to prepare for his talks with Trump.
I'm Caty Weaver.
Hai Do adapted this story for VOA Learning English based on AP and other news reports. George Grow was the editor.
Words in This Story
peninsula - n. a piece of land that is almost surrounded by water and is attached to a larger land area.
denuclearize - v. to remove nuclear weapons from
rough - adj. done in a simple way without all the detail and will need further changes
verifiable - adj. something that can be proven or shown
irreversible - adj. impossible to change back
conclusion - n. end
illusion - n. an idea that is based on something that is not true
comprehensive - adj. including many, most, or all things