Experts react to ‘complete denuclearization’ pledge by leaders after inter-Korean summit

Eleven years after the last inter-Korean summit, the leaders of North and South Korea have again joined hands to sign a joint agreement – the Panmunjeom Declaration of April 27 – this time committing to “complete denuclearization” of the Peninsula. The inclusion of such language in the declaration is being considered by some to sufficiently meet unofficial preconditions set by the US for the upcoming Trump-Kim summit. 
“We confirm the shared goal between North and South to realize the complete denuclearize of the Peninsula,” the text of the 13-point Panmunjeom Declaration stated. The two leaders also committed to “peace, prosperity, and unification of the Korean Peninsula.” 
According to the declaration, “South and North Korea shared the view that the measures being initiated by North Korea are very meaningful and crucial for the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula and agree to fulfill their respective roles and responsibilities in this regard. South and North Korea agreed to actively seek the support and cooperation of the international community for denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.” 
The “measures being initiated by North Korea” appears to be in reference to announcements Kim made during the 3rd plenary meeting of the 7th Central Committee of the Workers’ Party of Korea on April 20 to freeze nuclear and ICBM tests and shut down the Punggye-ri nuclear weapons test site.
But most importantly, inclusion of language committing to ‘complete denuclearization” of the Korean Peninsula sets the stage for the upcoming summit between Kim Jong Un and US President Donald Trump. Experts are now looking to the US-North Korea summit to see whether the two leaders expand upon this commitment with more details regarding how denuclearization will occur. 
Lee Su Seok, a North Korea analyst at South Korea’s Institute for National Security Strategy, told Daily NK in reaction to the declaration that “Chairman Kim has shown the international community through signing this document that he intends to work with the international community toward denuclearization, indicating that the process and methods will likely be worked out at the US-North Korea summit.” 
“Efforts to implement [the declaration] will have to be better than previous attempts where similar commitments fell apart in the next stage of discussions,” Lee added. “We must pursue systematic improvements to North-South relations, and we should not hold back in fulfilling our guiding role towards peace on the Korean Peninsula.”
The US-North Korea summit is expected to take place sometime in late May or early June, although the date and location have yet to be announced. Expectations are especially high because a roadmap for peace between North and South Korea depends on whether Trump and Kim reach an agreement over the North’s denuclearization, and more importantly whether that commitment leads to verifiable results.
“Because the signing of a peace treaty ultimately depends on the implementation of denuclearization, the fate of these commitments now falls to the US-North Korea summit,” said Oh Gyeong Seop of the Korea Institute for National Unification. “Yes, it is meaningful that the words ‘complete denuclearization’ made it into the declaration, but it appears that the nuclear issue still largely hinges on the coming high-level summit.”
“We will now have to look towards the US-North Korea summit to see if the North asks for safety guarantees for its current system in exchange for denuclearization,” Oh added.
“The US-North Korea summit to take place in late May or early June will have to sufficiently address the topic of ‘complete denuclearization’ in order for the cooperation spelled out in the Panmunjom Declaration to be implemented, added Cheong Seong Chang, a senior researcher at the Sejong Institute Department of Unification Strategy Studies.
“The upcoming summit between the US and North Korea will serve as an important basis on which the fate of the Korean Peninsula depends.”