2 Koreas to hold historic summit, focus on North's nuke issue

South Korean President Moon Jae In and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un are set to hold Friday the first inter-Korean summit in over a decade, with talks to focus on the North's denuclearization and ending their decades-old rivalry. The meeting, along with a planned first-ever summit between the United States and North Korea, are being seen as a critical chance to seek a breakthrough in the North Korean nuclear and missile standoff following a year of mounting tensions on the Korean Peninsula. Kim left Pyongyang early on Friday morning for the "historical" meeting and he will "open-heartedly discuss" with Moon issues arising in improving inter-Korean relations and achieving peace, prosperity and reunification of the Korean Peninsula, North Korea's state-run Korean Central News Agency reported. (Korean unification flag) A reconciliatory mood was created by North Korea's abrupt diplomatic outreach in the past months, and the summit hosted by South Korea will mark the first time for a North Korean ruler to cross the border of the two countries, which remain technically at war. Every word and move by the secretive country's leader will be keenly watched, with major events to unfold in the border village of Panmunjeom to be broadcast live, starting from the two leaders' first encounter and their initial handshake. During the official talks that will start from 10:30 a.m., the 65-year-old South Korean president will face off with the North Korean leader around half his age, hoping to affirm Kim's commitment to denuclearization. North Korea, which has continued to advance its missile and nuclear weapons programs in defiance of the international community, has expressed its commitment to denuclearization in recent months and also announced a halt of nuclear tests and long-range missile launches less than a week before the summit. But skepticism remains over whether Kim is serious about surrendering his country's nuclear weapons or is just seeking to win concessions from the international community, such as the easing of economic sanctions imposed on his country over its weapons program. Moon is also expected to discuss with Kim ways to establish a peace regime on the Korean Peninsula as part of efforts to bring an end in the current armistice signed after the 1950-1953 Korean War. In the war, North Korea sought by force to reunite the Korean nation, divided at the 38th parallel into a Soviet-occupied north and a U.S.-occupied south at the conclusion of World War II. The peninsula remains divided by the Demilitarized Zone along that parallel. North Korea has long pressed the United States for a peace treaty, as a way to ensure the survival of its regime. A security guarantee is a prerequisite for the North to give up to its nuclear arms, which it touts as its "treasured sword" to defend against the "hostile policies" of the United States and its allies. Replacing the armistice with a peace treaty is a complicated issue that cannot be addressed only by the two Koreas, but Moon and Kim may seek to adopt a "peace declaration" to end their hostile relationship in what could be a seen as a major step toward reconciliation. Moon has also said he wants to hold talks with the aim of advancing inter-Korean relations, though it would likely be difficult for the two sides to agree on an early resumption of their economic cooperation as North Korea remains under the pressure of international sanctions. The two leaders plan to sign a document on agreements reached during the summit, an official of the South Korean presidential office said Thursday, but it remains unclear in what way the outcome will be announced. The third inter-Korean summit, which is shorter than the previous ones in 2000 and 2007 that continued for a few days, will contain events that appear to highlight the two countries' reconciliatory mood. Between the morning and afternoon sessions of the summit, Moon and Kim will jointly plant a commemorative pine tree on the Military Demarcation Line that runs through the middle of the Demilitarized Zone, a 4-kilometer wide, 250-km-long stretch of land. The pine is a "tree beloved by the Korean people," and a mixture of soil taken from the highest mountains of both countries will be used in the planting. The two leaders will wet the roots of the freshly planted tree with water from rivers flowing through their capitals, in a gesture of hope for peace and prosperity. The day will wrap up with a welcoming dinner and the two leaders' watching a video themed "A New Spring Enjoyed Together," featuring a mix of beautiful images and the present and the future of the Korean Peninsula, according to the official.

2 hours ago | KYODO NEWS

Olympics: IOC tells Tokyo to sharpen up after successful Pyeongchang Games

The International Olympic Committee urged organizers of the 2020 Tokyo Olympics on Monday to step up their preparations and brace themselves for intense scrutiny, following the successful hosting of the Winter Games by neighboring South Korea in Pyeongchang. John Coates, the IOC vice president and chairman of the 2020 Coordination Commission, fired a warning shot during the opening remarks of the two-day project review for the next Summer Games, saying the eyes of the world will now be on Tokyo with Pyeongchang in the rearview mirror. Coates did not mince words, explaining the pressure will be on the Tokyo organizing committee to deliver a highly successful games two years from now."This project review comes off the back of a very, very, very successful Olympic Winter Games in Pyeongchang, so the bar's just been raised a bit higher for you," Coates said. "We are now -- you are now -- into the operational phase of the preparation, test events, some of them happening this summer.""We also enter a phase where questions from stakeholders become very pragmatic and very urgent, in particular in areas such as the field of play, accommodation, transport, things that affect the competition and the athletes." (John Coates, right, and Yoshiro Mori)[Pool photo] Coates' remarks follow stinging criticism of Tokyo's preparations by the international governing bodies of some sports last week in Bangkok at the SportAccord Convention, in particular from World Sailing, which claimed the organizing committee is at least one year behind, with its first test event scheduled in September at Enoshima Yacht Harbor. Coates said Tokyo can expect to be put to the test about its readiness in late November this year, when the Association of National Olympic Committees comes to town for a series of meetings.Coates said organizers can expect two days of being grilled and that they will need to be able to respond to the heightened demands of the IOC's member nations."Remember, we have 206 National Olympic Committees coming here in November and they're not going to hold back," the Australian said. "They're going to want answers so you have to be prepared to answer those questions when they're raised.""If you don't, these are the things that can impact the confidence of your stakeholders and the ability to host the games, and that's very hard to come back from once that momentum starts to build.""When these questions come, they're going to be answered." Coates said Tokyo has a lot going for it, especially in terms of massive public support. He pointed to the parade for Pyeongchang men's figure skating gold medalist Yuzuru Hanyu on Sunday that drew more than 100,000 as an example of that backing, which Coates said must be capitalized on. (Yuzuru Hanyu waves to fans during Sunday's parade in his hometown Sendai.) "I saw on the front page of the (Japan Times), your figure skater in the hometown of Sendai, 100,000 people coming out on the street for a parade. That's unbelievable, six weeks after the games," he said."That's the momentum you really have going for you and that's the momentum you can build on." Drawing on his own experience as chief organizer of the 2000 Olympics in Sydney, Coates stressed the importance of the Japanese delegation performing well for the Tokyo Games to be a true success, more than whatever profits the event makes."When Sydney was given the games, (then IOC President Juan Antonio Samaranch) said to me, 'John, the success of the games in your country will be based on the performance of the home team -- it's so critical that you get that right.'""That's what you'll be judged on. The massive surplus and the money that's going back to the IOC, that's important, but it's not as important as the gold medals."  

Apr 23, 2018 | KYODO NEWS