DPRK, S. Korean leaders get hotline live as stage set for summit



A hotline between the leaders of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea(DPRK) and South Korea goes live on Friday as they prepare for next week’s historic summit on the border that has separated their countries for more than six decades.

As preparations for their meeting gather pace, South Korean media reported that DPRK’s leader, Kim Jong-un, and the South Korean president, Moon Jae-in, would talk over the phone before they meet next Friday.

The summit will take place on the southern side of the demilitarised zone, a heavily armed strip of land that that has divided the peninsula since hostilities in the Korean war ended in 1953.

The hotline will connect the South Korean presidential Blue House and DPRK’s state affairs commission, which is headed by Kim, Yonhap news agency said.

Officials from the two countries were due to test the hotline ahead of a conversation between Kim and Moon, although no date has been set for their call.

DPRK has not commented on Moon’s claim on Thursday that Kim would not demand the withdrawal of US troops from the Korean peninsula as a precondition for abandoning his nuclear weapons during his meeting with Donald Trump in late May or early June.

“North Korea(DPRK) is expressing a commitment to a complete denuclearisation,” Moon, a left-leaning liberal who has long favoured engagement with DPRK, told media executives. “They are not presenting a condition that the US cannot accept, such as the withdrawal of the American troops in South Korea ... North Korea(DPRK) is only talking about the end of a hostile policy against it and then a security guarantee for the country.”

DPRK could offer some indication of what it expects in return for denuclearisation later on Friday at a plenary session of the central committee of the ruling workers’ party.

The state-run KCNA news agency said the committee would discuss “policy issues of a new stage” in response to the current “important historic period”.

Some analysts speculated the body would revise Kim’s dual “byongjin” policy of pursuing economic and nuclear development before his summits with Moon and Trump.

“There is a high possibility that North Korea(DPRK) could unveil a new policy line, revising its byongjin policy at the plenary session,” Cheong Seong-chang, a senior research fellow at the Sejong Institute in Seoul, told Yonhap. “A new line will likely contain North Korea(DPRK) expressing its willingness to join denuclearisation talks and resolve to improve ties with the South, the US and Japan, as well as to seek peace and coexistence.”

Kim’s apparent concession on US troop withdrawal has taken many by surprise.

Traditionally, DPRK has justified its nuclear programme as a necessary counter to Washington’s “hostile policy” of basing tens of thousands of troops in South Korea and Japan, and guaranteeing its north-east Asian allies’ security through its nuclear umbrella.

With just a week to go before Kim and Moon become the first DPRK and South Korean leaders to meet in more than a decade, officials were trying to ensure the summit would proceed without incident or embarrassment.

Earlier this week they met to discuss details, including plans to broadcast live TV coverage of the leaders’ shaking hands at the start of their talks, which will take place at the Peace House on the southern side of the border village of Panmunjom.

It will be the first time a DPRK leader has visited the South since the end of the Korean war, and only the third time any South Korean or DPRK leaders have met.

The two previous inter-Korea summits, held in 2000 and 2007 in Pyongyang, involved the then DPRK's leader Kim Jong-il and South Korean presidents Kim Dae-jung and Roh Moo-hyun.

Moon and Kim are expected to discuss a formal end to hostilities between their countries, 65 years after the Korean war ended with an armistice, but not a peace treaty.

Trump told reporters this week the Koreas “have my blessing” to secure a peace treaty and bring an end to the conflict.

Six senior South Korean officials will accompany Moon to the summit, including his chief of staff, spy chief, national security adviser and unification, defence and foreign ministers, a presidential spokesman said.