The two Koreas are moving fast to improve bilateral relations. The reunion of separated families is planned to be resumed for the first time in three years. Both Koreas had a meeting on August 23 at Panmunjom to discuss the reunion and agreed with each other to hold the event at Mt. Kumgang during the Chuseok holidays. Moreover, talks are in progress to restart Mt. Kumgang tourism, along with the normalization of the Kaesong Industrial Complex.
UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, who visited the South recently, also said that he was considering visiting North Korea if discussions with Seoul and Pyongyang were completed. He added that the UN is willing to lend a helping hand to President Park Geun-hye’s plan for the World Peace Park in the DMZ, on the condition that both Koreas reach an amicable agreement. He revealed his intentions to the President during his meeting with her.
It is said that North Korea’s attempt to resume the Mt. Kumgang tourism and manufacturing activities in the industrial complex has to do with earning foreign currency, but is also a symbolic gesture in international relations. These days, China, which is concerned over any instability on the Korean peninsula, is urging the North to normalize inter-Korean relations. And, of course, the normalization is an essential step for Pyongyang to improve its relations with the US.
On August 19 (local time), Chinese Defense Minister Chang Wanquan met with US Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel and National Security Adviser Susan Rice in Washington D.C., and called upon them to step forward to talk with the North. “Pyongyang said that it was willing to join three-way or four-way talks under the assumption that no strings be attached by the US,” Chang mentioned in the meeting. Washington, however, reconfirmed its stance that the North’s efforts towards denuclearization must precede any dialogue. With regard to this point, US Special Representative for North Korea Glyn Davies and Daniel Russel, senior director for Asian affairs at the White House National Security Council, will visit South Korea, China, and Japan in early September to discuss the proposal from Pyongyang.
As stated above, inter-Korean relations are showing better signs, and preparations for another six-party meeting is well underway. Nevertheless, the picture is not entirely rosy. In any event, the key is denuclearization by the North, and how truthful it is regarding the agenda. It is now Kim Jong-un’s turn to answer the peace-building efforts of the other countries.