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North Korea Crisis

Five things to know about inter-Korean summit

Two sides in diplomatic drive to prepare for Trump-Kim meeting

Friday's meeting between North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and South Korean President Moon Jae-in will mark the start of the first inter-Korean talks in a decade.

SEOUL -- North Korean leader Kim Jong Un will meet with South Korean President Moon Jae-in on Friday at Panmunjom in the Demilitarized Zone, in the first inter-Korean summit in 11 years.

Pyongyang has taken a number of initiatives in the run-up to the summit, including a promise to end nuclear and missile tests and establish a hotline with Seoul. The regime has also signaled it is prepared to accept the presence of U.S. forces on the Korean Peninsula and sign a nonaggression pact.

But Pyongyang has used similar tactics in previous negotiations and there are lingering doubts surrounding Kim's true intentions.

Here are five things to know about the Kim-Moon meeting.

What are the main topics?

A wide range of issues are expected to be on the agenda, including people-to-people exchanges, confidence building between the two countries' militaries, and a possible peace treaty that would replace the 1953 armistice that halted the Korean War.

But the biggest issue is the North's nuclear weapons program. Last September, the North conducted its sixth nuclear test and the biggest ever in scale -- about eight times the yield of the bomb dropped on Hiroshima in 1945. The country also fired a long-range ballistic missile seen as capable of reaching major U.S. cities, declaring that its nuclear arsenal was complete.

"I assume that denuclearization will be a critical component of any peace plan," said Frank Jannuzi, a former U.S. State Department official and president of the Mansfield Foundation, a group that funds work on U.S.-Asian policy.   

On Friday morning, Kim was greeted by Moon with a smile and a handshake at the military demarcation line. 

The talks are being held on the South Korean side of the truce village. This marks the first time that a North Korean leader has crossed the border since the Korean War. 

The two leaders will also plant a pine tree in the DMZ together. At the conclusion of the talks, they will announce any agreements before attending a dinner.

How is it different from the previous two summits?

The first inter-Korean summit took place in 2000 and involved Kim's father, Kim Jong Il, and then-South Korean President Kim Dae-jung. At the time, North Korea's economy was in crisis and a famine in the late 1990s had decimated the population, prompting the elder Kim to seek external help.

The second came in 2007 when Kim Jong Il was urged to come to the negotiating table by Roh Moo-hyun, South Korea's president at the time. The meeting led to an agreement to jointly develop the Kaesong industrial zone on the Northern side of the border, despite U.S. concerns that economic assistance would undermine a multilateral campaign targeting Pyongyang's nuclear weapons program.

There has been much closer coordination between the U.S. and South Korea for the upcoming summit. Seoul has taken on the role of an intermediary between Washington and Pyongyang, as Trump seeks a deal with Kim to bolster support ahead of the biennial U.S. midterm elections in November, said Masao Okonogi, professor emeritus at Keio University in Tokyo.

What does the South hope to achieve?

Moon, an advocate of engagement with the North, has overcome an initially tense relationship with Trump by presenting himself as the go-between for two leaders who need to strike a deal.

Having brokered a summit between Trump and Kim scheduled for May or June, his task now is to make sure the meeting goes ahead and adds momentum to the process of eventual denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.

Moon's shuttle diplomacy followed a war of words between Pyongyang and Washington. Trump said the U.S. was ready to "totally destroy" North Korea during a United Nations General Assembly session in September, while North Korea threatened to detonate a hydrogen bomb over the Pacific.

Moon has stressed that Seoul must be "in the driving seat" during negotiations on denuclearization.

The peace offensive comes in stark contrast to the hard-line approach taken by Moon's predecessor Park Geun-hye, and has proved popular with the public. Kim Dae-jung won the Nobel Peace Prize for his "sunshine policy" of engagement with the North and the successful conclusion to the 2000 summit. Some have suggested Moon has similar ambitions.

What does the North hope to achieve?

Kim became the North Korean leader in 2011 before he turned 30, and would appear to have many years ahead of him in the position.

The immediate goal is an easing of sanctions. The United Nations has completely banned North Korean exports of coal, iron ore, textiles and other items, and has severely curbed the country's oil supply.

Ultimately, Pyongyang's aim is to gain security guarantees for the regime in the form of diplomatic normalization with the U.S. in exchange for ending the nuclear weapons program.

Much skepticism remains about the true intentions of the North. Last week, Pyongyang said it would close its underground nuclear test facility and suspend missile and nuclear tests, in an apparent goodwill gesture.

But this week, Chinese scientists reported that the underground facility suffered a collapse following the nuclear test in September and is not usable anyway -- a finding that may point to the disingenuous nature of the North Korean regime.    

What will the summit achieve?

Pyongyang and Seoul want to lay the groundwork for a successful Trump-Kim meeting, and the two sides are expected to highlight progress toward the final goal of denuclearization.

They could also announce an official end to the hostilities in a bid to replace the armistice of 1953.

But the two leaders are unlikely to go into specifics such as the time frame and extent of denuclearization or precise reductions in the conventional weapons they have targeted at each other.

The two Koreas are likely to confirm the basic aims of future talks, such as denuclearization, peace, humanitarian issues and improving bilateral relations, according to Shin Beom-chul, senior fellow at the Asan Institute for Policy Studies, a Seoul-based think tank.

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