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Inter-Korean Relations Improving, Though Without Progress on Denuclearization

© REUTERS / The Presidential Blue House/YonhapNorth Korean leader Kim Jong Un greets Chung Eui-yong, head of the presidential National Security Office, in Pyongyang, North Korea, March 6, 2018
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un greets Chung Eui-yong, head of the presidential National Security Office, in Pyongyang, North Korea, March 6, 2018 - Sputnik International
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South Korean President Moon Jae-in’s delegation to Pyongyang earlier this week proved to be successful, with the two Koreas subsequently agreeing to hold a summit in April. But prospects of direct dialogue between the US and DPRK remain vague, experts say.

Kim Dong-yup, a professor at Kyungnam University's Far East Institute in South Korea, told Sputnik he was surprised by the fact that the third inter-Korean summit will be held at the "Peace House" on the South Korean side of Panmunjom, a "truce village" in the demilitarized zone.

"We can probably regard this as a reciprocal visit of the North Korean leader following the two previous summits [that took place in Pyongyang in 2000 and 2007]," Kim said.

"What's most important is that Kim Jong-un is demonstrating the confidence of a decent head of state. Also, [the location] is a great choice, beneficial for both South and North, as it paves the way for maintaining relationship dynamics between the two states, allowing President Moon to make a return visit to Pyongyang for the fourth inter-Korean summit," the professor explained.

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Cheong Seong-chang, head of the Department of Unification Strategy Studies at the Sejong Institute in South Korea, agreed with Kim, saying that organizing a summit in Seoul or Pyongyang would require a lot of time and effort, but the decision to hold a summit at Panmunjom is both a compromise and an unprecedented pragmatic approach. The Korean Demilitarized Zone is neutral territory, established as a buffer zone between North Korea and South Korea following the 1953 armistice in the Korean War.

© REUTERS / Yonhap South Korean President Moon Jae-in talks with President of the Presidium of the Supreme People's Assembly of North Korea Kim Young Nam and Kim Yo Jong, the sister of North Korea's leader Kim Jong Un, during their meeting at the Presidential Blue House in Seoul, South Korea, February 10, 2018
South Korean President Moon Jae-in talks with President of the Presidium of the Supreme People's Assembly of North Korea Kim Young Nam and Kim Yo Jong, the sister of North Korea's leader Kim Jong Un, during their meeting at the Presidential Blue House in Seoul, South Korea, February 10, 2018 - Sputnik International
South Korean President Moon Jae-in talks with President of the Presidium of the Supreme People's Assembly of North Korea Kim Young Nam and Kim Yo Jong, the sister of North Korea's leader Kim Jong Un, during their meeting at the Presidential Blue House in Seoul, South Korea, February 10, 2018

A girl in a historical park on the outskirts of Pyongyang. (File) - Sputnik International
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"We cannot ignore that agreeing to hold the third inter-Korean summit at Panmunjom — a symbol of confrontation between the two Koreas — in the ‘House of Peace' on the South Korean side, tells a lot about Kim Jong-un's determination," Cheong told Sputnik.

Both experts praised the initiative to establish a telephone "hotline" between the leaders of the two Koreas, with the first phone conversation expected to take place before the beginning of the summit.

"The ‘hotline' established to defuse tensions and hold high-level consultations will become an important through-passage, helping North and South build up trust and mutual respect," Kim said.

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However, Kim pointed out that while the South Korean delegation reached landmark agreements with the North regarding inter-Korean relations, there wasn't significant development on the issue of denuclearization of North Korea and the regime's direct dialogue with the US.

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"The DPRK is currently focused on inter-Korean relations and it seems that they are working towards the eighth Congress of the Workers' Party of Korea in 2021 while ignoring the fact that Trump is going to remain in power for the next three years," Kim said.

Relations between the two Koreas have thawed in recent months, with the states resuming talks and the North sending its athletes and a delegation to the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics in South Korea, where their national teams marched together under a "unification flag" in the opening ceremony.

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