Leaders of North and South Korea met in Pyongyang on Tuesday for an historic three-day summit. North Korea’s reclusive leader, Kim Jong-Il, personally greeted South Korean President Roh Moo-Hyun, who is asking for arms cuts in exchange for help rebuilding North Korea’s economy with a “joint economic community” designed to be a precursor to reunification. As Roh was escorted through town in a limousine, crowds chanted in unison, “Unify the fatherland!”
Whatever happens at this summit, said The Seattle Times in an editorial, it’s encouraging to see both sides sit down for “civil” conversation. This is, after all, only the second time leaders from the North and the South have met since the Korean War was halted. “Admirable progress after so much blood, bluster and nuttiness.” Will the summit end with a “symbolic peace agreement,” or will “diplomatic missteps behind closed doors” set the clock back?
There’s reason to hope for the best, said The Korea Times in an editorial. On Sunday, the governments participating in six-party talks in Beijing hammered out an “11th-hour” agreement on the second stage of North Korea’s “nuclear dismantlement.” Without this agreement, Kim and Roh would have been “stuck in nuclear quagmire too deeply to touch such future-oriented issues as reunification and co-prosperity.”
It’s hard to know how hopeful to be about the tentative nuclear-disarmament agreement, said The Wall Street Journal in an editorial. The participants in the six-party talks—which included the Koreas and the U.S., China, Japan, and Russia—didn’t sign a formal agreement, only a draft open to further comment. And the details “remain secret.” North Korea was supposed to provide a full accounting of its nuclear program within 60 days under an agreement signed in February, and “we’re still waiting.” A little “transparency” would be nice.