Fri, 19 Jul 2019

Kim Jong Un changed his mind over historic visit to Seoul?

By Sheetal Sukhija, St Louis News
11 Dec 2018, 13:28 GMT+10

SEOUL, South Korea - The North Korean leader Kim Jong Un's planned visit to the South Korean capital, Seoul, which was planned for later this month, is suddenly looking doubtful.  

The visit, which was set to become the first time a North Korean leader visits Seoul since the end of the Korean War of 1950-1953, looked doubtful on Monday, after a South Korean TV channel YTN said that Kim Jong Un was unlikely to make the trip as previously planned. 

The report in YTN citing an unidentified official in the South Korean presidential office as saying that Kim Jong Un was unlikely to visit Seoul in the final three weeks of this year.

The trip by Jong Un was reportedly planned during the South Korean President Moon Jae In's visit to Pyongyang in September this year.

Since then, speculation had been rife that Jong Un would indeed make the historic visit before the end of the year.

Further, Jae In too has repeatedly said that the trip could happened by the end of December. 

During the September summit, the North Korean leader agreed to visit the South Korean capital "at an early date."

However, he is yet to officially accept Jae In's invitation to visit Seoul before the end of 2018. 

What's in it for South Korea?

The South Korean government has already made the announcement to the people in the country, that the North Korean leader would try and make the visit possible.

Further, preparation for the visit have been ongoing for weeks now, with special decorations being planned around Jae In's official residence, called the Blue House.  

Last week, the South Korean media reported that the Blue House entrance was bedecked with a large artwork that showed the two Korean leaders smiling and shaking hands. 

Over the weekend, Kim Eui-kyeom, a presidential spokesman, said, "Our government has been making preparations for an inter-Korean summit in Seoul, keeping all possibilities in mind. As of now, nothing has been determined. There are many things to consider if a Seoul visit is to take place, so we do not intend to be in a hurry or to ask them to hurry."

While enhancing ties between the two Koreas has been on the South Korean President's agenda since his election campaigning days, Jae In would want the Kim Jong Un Seoul visit to materialize to help improve his domestic standing as well.

So far, in his role as the President, Jae In's approval ratings have depended heavily on the progress in expansion of the inter-Korean ties. 

Following his first summit with Kim Jong Un in April, the South Korean President's approval rating soared as high as 80 percent. 

However, his ratings slumped to 50 percent amid deepening frustrations over the lack of progress in ending the North Korean nuclear problem.

Other economic issues and youth unemployment too have affected Moon Jae In's ratings.

However, Jae In's opponents have lashed out at his approach towards its oppressive neighbor. 

Sohn Hak-kyu, leader of the opposition Bareun Mirae Party, told reporters on Monday, "Our government's submissive attitude can make North Korea arrogant and trigger a backlash from our people."

What's in it for North Korea?

With reports hinting towards a possible change in plans, experts believe that a delay in Kim Jong Un's visit to Seoul, could complicate efforts for a second summit between the North Korean leader and the U.S. President Donald Trump. 

Some analysts have pointed out that the Seoul visit could be delayed or cancelled since Kim Jong Un may not see any incentive to meet Jae In before sorting out the differences with the U.S. - since talks between the two countries have been deadlocked for months now.   

Since Trump's meeting with Kim Jong Un in June this year, when the two leaders vowed "complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula" - the subsequent rounds of diplomatic talks have failed to deliver concrete results. 

While North Korea has insisted on receiving relief from the strict international sanctions against the country before it denuclearizes, the U.S. has demanded verifiable dismantling of the country's nuclear arsenal before any sanctions are lifted. 

Irked by Washington's unilateral demand of denuclearization, Pyongyang has refused to proceed any further, even though it destroyed one of its nuclear weapons development site.  

North Korea recently announced the test of a new "ultramodern tactical weapon" earlier this month.

Further, a prominent Washington think tank called the Center for Strategic and International Studies, has revealed that North Korea has continued to strengthen its missile development at several secret bases. 

Meanwhile, the U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has consistently failed in efforts to get North Korea to implement a list of steps towards denuclearization. 

However, despite the U.S.-North Korea talks hitting an impasse, the two Koreas have enhanced ties over the last few months. 

South Korea has been pacing ahead with an ambitious project to connect the daily networks between the two countries despite the stringent UN sanctions against Pyongyang. 

Last week, for the first time in over a decade, a South Korean train crossed the heavily-guarded border into North Korea and experts from Seoul begun surveying railway tracks in the North. 

Meanwhile, earlier this month, Trump announced that he is likely to meet Kim Jong Un again in January or February.

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