ANU EXPERTS: Inter-Korean Summit

After a year of escalating tensions on the Korean peninsula, Kim Jong-un and Moon Jae-in have scheduled an inter-Korea summit meeting for April 27.

This will be the first summit between the two Koreas since 2007. It signifies a major step forward in the inter-Korean rapprochement process that began with their joint-participation in the Pyeongchang Winter Olympic Games.

The Australian National University has experts who can comment on the summit and its implications.

Experts can be contacted directly or through the ANU media office on (02) 6125 7979.


Professor John Blaxland
Head of Department, ANU Strategic & Defence Studies Centre
ANU College of Asia & the Pacific
T: 02 6125 0932
Expertise: Security policy, intelligence

“In a high stakes game of brinkmanship we should be wary of managing disappointment if raised expectations fail to result in material concessions.  The ROK government, understandably enough, has high hopes of a dramatic breakthrough, but the North Koreans have a track record of playing hard ball – of making apparent concessions and then backtracking or failing to stick to the terms of agreements,” Professor Blaxland said.

“Their position is understandable, to a point at least. American policy shifts, for instance, reinforce the rhetoric of Western untrustworthiness and internal North Korean narratives focus on the suffering associated with American-led bombardments dating back to the Korean War.

“Recently the North Koreans have declared they are closing down testing facilities and halting their testing program. But despite appearances, neither of these moves involves any particularly significant concession from the North Koreans. Of course, they will halt tests until the summit. To do otherwise would be to halt the process in its tracks. Besides, the testing facilities have suffered serious damage, making their closure an easy announceable. 

“Such moves cleverly generate an expectation of a substantive compromise concession from the South in return. President Park knows this, but has enormous political momentum building for concessions leading to a significant breakthrough, so avoiding making substantive concessions while ensuring the North Koreans reciprocate will be a difficult task.”

Dr Michael Cohen
Senior Lecturer, National Security College
ANU College of Asia and the Pacific
T: 02 6125 5452
M: 0439 398 360

“While the first inter-Korean summit in over a decade is good news for short term stability on the Korean peninsula, it is a sideshow to the coming main Trump-Kim meeting,” Dr Cohen said.

“Here, we must ask - is North Korea willing to negotiate away the nuclear arsenal that it has taken decades to painfully develop - and is the United States and South Korea will accept anything short of this.

“To the extent that the answers to these questions turns out to be no, expect a rapid deterioration on the Korean peninsula and the likelihood of further weapons tests and possibly war scares. If the answer to the third question is yes, expect the U.S.-ROK alliance to be faced with its greatest challenge yet.”

Dr David William Kim
Visiting Fellow, Department of Political and Social Change
ANU College of Asia & the Pacific
T: 02 6125 3048

“The inter-Korean Summit on this Friday would not be another political encounter between two Korean leaders like 2000 and 2007, but could be a historical moment if the result turns up successful as they both are willing and prepared it together,” Dr Kim said.

“The House of Peace at the Joint Security Area of Panmunjeom will be a symbolic place of uniting two political ideologies.

“What is the role of Australian government in the meantime? Since Australia has a long-term relationship from the pre-diplomatic period (1898), the international cooperation is necessary with South Korea and the USA for the future economic exchange.”

Dr Jong-sung You
Senior Lecturer, School of International, Political & Strategic Studies
ANU College of Asia and the Pacific
T: 6125 7097
M: 0424 081 956

“The Moon-Kim summit on Friday will not only help establish new peaceful and cooperative relations between the divided nation, but also set the tone and substance for the US-DPRK summit. The dramatic turn of US-South Korea-North Korea relations has been happening this year, following the changes in South Korea following the impeachment of former president Park Geun-hye, or the candlelight revolution. The summit also highlights how Kim Jong-un's strategic moves are also different from those of his father.”

For media assistance, contact Aaron Walker on the ANU media hotline on 02 6125 7979 or 0418 307 213.

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