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Not so fast

June 19,2018
After the Singapore summit between U.S. President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, negotiations for the denuclearization of North Korea seem to have entered a readjustment phase. For instance, discussions between Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and his North Korean counterpart over drawing a roadmap for denuclearization are being delayed. So-called hotline communications between Trump and Kim have not yet taken place. After the summit with Kim, Trump said he had proposed Kim make a phone call directly to him via a phone number he gave.

The slower-than-expected pace on the denuclearization front could be natural given the 20 years it took for both sides to come to this point. It seems that Trump and Kim are busy reviewing their checklists for denuclearization after the fanfare ended.

In such circumstances, South and North Korea had a meeting Monday between their sports officials at Panmunjom. Before heading to the meeting, Jeon Choong-ryul, head of the South Korean delegation and secretary general of the Korean Sport and Olympic Committee, said it is important for South and North Korea to demonstrate unity in international sports competitions again.

Both sides reportedly discussed how to field a single team for the 18th Asian Games in Indonesia in August and how to stage an inter-Korean basketball game to promote the unification of the Korean Peninsula. The two countries will hold another meeting today and Wednesday about the establishment of a joint liaison office in Kaesong. Both sides plan to hold a Red Cross meeting on Friday for a reunion for families separated by the Korean War. The two Koreas are speeding up mutual exchanges and cooperation.

But concerns are arising over the speed. Of course, reconciliation and dialogue are important. But it can’t outpace the timetable of denuclearization. There is another worry. If South and North Korea rush to field a single team for the Asian Games in Jakarta and Palembang, it could trigger controversy as they did in the PyeongChang Winter Olympics in February. After Seoul hurriedly agreed with Pyongyang to field a single team for women’s ice hockey, many South Koreans were angry that some of their players could not play the games due to a sudden influx of North Korean players.

The rumored inter-Korean meeting last week at Panmunjom to achieve arms reduction also rang alarms. North Korea has not even begun dismantling or scrapping its nuclear weapons. As the saying goes, too much is as bad as too little.

JoongAng Ilbo, June 19, Page 30