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Huge 3-day Korean nuclear summit between Kim Jong Un and Moon Jae-in brings new scrutiny and hopes

In this handout photo provided by South Korea Presidential Blue House via Hankyoreh, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, right, embraces Presdient of South Korea Moon Jae-in after their meeting at the northern side of the Panmunjom in North Korea on May 26, 2018. Kim and Moon have met for the second time in a month to discuss peace commitments they reached in their first summit and Kim's potential meeting with President Donald Trump. (South Korea Presidential Blue House/Hankyoreh Daily/Sipa USA/TNS)
September 17, 2018

North and South Korea are slated to hold a 3-day summit from Sept. 18 to 20, and one of the key topics of discussion will be denuclearization.

There is great tension surrounding the subject, and it’s unlikely any real progress will be made at the working-level meetings, a South Korean official said, according to NK News.

Presidential Chief of Staff Im Jong-seok said denuclearization is a “heavy topic weighing on the summit” but that it’s “difficult to be optimistic” on results, NK News reported.

Im said there will be three main items on the summit agenda: “improving inter-Korean relations in accordance with the Panmunjom Declaration, accelerating denuclearization talks with the U.S., and ending inter-Korean military tensions,” NK News said.

This will be the third North-South Korea summit in four months.

South Korea is likely well-aware that nuclear talks between North Korea and the U.S. have come to standstill in recent weeks, despite President Donald Trump’s assurances.

Earlier this month, White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders confirmed that President Trump received another letter from North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.

Sanders said the President received “a very warm, very positive letter” from Kim.

“The primary purpose of the letter was to request and look to schedule another meeting with the President, which we are open to,” she said.

The White House confirmed that preparations were in the works for a second U.S.-North Korea summit with the two leaders.

Sanders said at the time that President Trump’s policies have “achieved tremendous success,” citing the returned remains of U.S. soldiers slain in the Korean War, U.S. hostages, discontinued ballistic missile or nuclear weapons testing, and the latest North Korean anniversary parade that excluded long-range missiles or nuclear developments.

The letter was the second from Kim to Trump since the two leaders’ historic summit in June.

While North Korea has reportedly reaffirmed its commitment to denuclearization, there have been conflicting reports of progress.

A United Nations nuclear watchdog group in August said North Korea hasn’t stopped the heart of its nuclear activities.

In the International Atomic Energy Agency’s recent report, it was revealed that they have not been granted direct access to North Korean nuclear sites for verifications of denuclearization progress, and the group has also observed nuclear activities using satellite imagery, which it called a “grave concern.”

The IAEA has been monitoring North Korea’s progress using satellite imagery. The report mentioned active nuclear activities at the Yongbyon nuclear power plant, as well as activities in a building housing the centrifuge enrichment facility.

“The continuation and further development of the DPRK’s nuclear program and related statements by the DPRK are a cause for grave concern,” the report said.

The IAEA report said these activities “are clear violations of relevant U.N. Security Council resolutions, including resolution 2375 (2017) and are deeply regrettable.”

President Trump canceled one of Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s planned trips to North Korea shortly after that report, although it is not known if the cancellation was in part due to the report or other issues.

In a series of tweets in late August, Trump said he asked Pompeo to cancel his upcoming trip, citing insufficient progress in denuclearization.

Trump later sent a series of tweets giving an update on North Korea, saying that he has a “good, warm” relationship with Kim.