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A turning point

Sept 21,2018
The United States will resume nuclear talks with North Korea. U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said he will immediately start negotiations to transform U.S.-North relations in a fundamental way after congratulating the participants in a successful inter-Korean summit in Pyongyang. We welcome the new development after a three-month deadlock in the denuclearization talks since the June 12 summit in Singapore.

Pompeo invited his North Korean counterpart Ri Yong-ho to New York next week. He also requested North Korean representatives to meet with Steve Biegun — the new U.S. Special Representative for North Korea Policy — in Vienna at the earliest possible date. Pompeo expressed the hope that the meeting in the Austrian capital will mark a starting point for negotiations on establishing a system for lasting peace on the Korean Peninsula through denuclearization by January 2021 when President Donald Trump’s first term ends.

Pompeo welcomed the North’s decision to permanently shut down the Tongchang-ri missile test site and allow it to be verified by international inspectors. Such expressions as “U.S. and IAEA inspectors” and “all facilities” were not used in the Pyongyang Declaration between President Moon Jae-in and North Korean leader Kim. Given Trump’s remarking on “tremendous progress with North Korea,” there is speculation that Kim sent him a letter promising additional denuclearization measures in return for a declaration to end the Korean War.

But the United States will likely keep sanctions intact while trying to strike a nuclear deal with North Korea ahead of the midterm elections in November, hinting at the possibility of the war of nerves between Washington and Pyongyang not subsiding easily.

During his stay in the North, Moon drastically departed from the way his predecessors behaved. He watched a demonstration of group gymnastics in a stadium, delivered a speech to 150,000 North Korean spectators, and greeted Pyongyang citizens with a deep bow.

Important events lie ahead for the Korean Peninsula — a Moon-Trump summit next week, Pompeo’s meeting with Ri Yong-ho, U.S.-North meetings in Vienna, a second U.S.-North summit and Kim’s visit to Seoul. The peninsula faces a turning point.

JoongAng Ilbo, Sept. 21, Page 30