North and South Korea have agreed to hold a third summit between leaders Moon Jae-in and Kim Jong-un in September, amid ongoing tensions between Pyongyang and Washington over the North’s lack of progress in giving up its nuclear weapons.
The agreement was struck between high level officials meeting in the border village of Panmunjom on Monday, although negotiators failed to nail down a precise date.
A joint statement said they had held “consultations in a sincere manner” on the “active enforcement” of the Panmunjom Declaration – a deal signed by Kim and Mr Moon at their first meeting in April, pledging to end the Korean war and work towards a nuclear-free Peninsula and a new era of peace.
But the optimism of April’s ground-breaking summit, during which Mr Moon and Kim frequently held hands and hugged, no longer hangs in the air.
On Sunday North Korean state media lashed out at Seoul, accusing it of foot-dragging over the Panmunjom agreement and of “blind obedience” to US-led sanctions.
“It’s been more than 100 days since the April 27 Panmunjom Declaration was adopted, but no fruit or progress has been produced. It is because of America’s sanctions and the South’s unfair participation in them,” it said through the state-run Uriminzokkiri website.
Pyongyang has also hit out at the US, the United Nations and Japan since a historic June meeting between Kim and Donald Trump, the US president.
North Korea has repeatedly called for the US to put an end to the Korean War – which ended in an armistice not a peace treaty – and to repeal crippling economic sanctions as a reward or Pyongyang’s show of good faith in ending its nuclear weapons testing.
However, the US has maintained that the North’s failure to stop its nuclear and missiles programme, as evidenced in a recent UN report, is inconsistent with Kim’s commitment to rid his country of nuclear weapons.
In a frosty statement issued by the North Korean permanent mission to the United Nations in New York, Pyongyang accused the US of “attempting to invent a pretext for increased sanctions.”
It added that some high-level officials in the US administration were making “baseless accusations”, warning that “there is no guarantee that the hard-won atmosphere of stability on the Korean Peninsula will continue”.
A separate statement also condemned the UN secretary general for saying that North Korea could be achieved through total denuclearisation that is “verifiable” and “irreversible”, signifying a stronger commitment than was agreed at earlier summits.
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Some believe a second meeting between Kim and President Trump could be a way to bring back the momentum to work towards peace, citing the UN General Assembly in New York next month as a convenient occasion to hold fresh talks.
The White House has denied such a meeting is currently in the works but analysts believe it could take place in the margins of the assembly.
Evans Revere, a former US diplomat, told The Daily Beast that Mr Trump “might be tempted to use that venue to put on a ‘show’ with his North Korean counterpart that would top what occurred in Singapore”.
Yet Washington is outwardly maintaining a firm line with Pyongyang. On Monday, Harry Harris, the new US ambassador to Seoul, said that it was too early to declare a formal end to the war or to lift sanctions.
“The potential for positive change in North Korea is limitless,” the ambassador said, in comments reported by Yonhap.
“But only if Chairman Kim fulfills his commitments to denuclearise. Sanctions will remain in place until North Korea takes concrete and verifiable steps toward denuclearisation. Our two nations are committed to choose the right deal, not just any deal,” he said.
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