Seoul: Kim Jong-un said he wondered to himself why he had not met the South’s leader before, and then appeared to promise an end to missile tests.
1. Reasons to be cheerful
The mood of the summit appeared genuinely optimistic and the two leaders seemed to strike up a convivial relationship from the start. The first sign was Kim Jong-un’s unscripted invitation for Moon Jae-in to step over to the North when they first met, apparently in response to Moon’s question: “When do I get to visit the North?” They chatted throughout their walk to the House of Peace and were all smiles and handshakes inside as they got down to business. Their opening remarks were suitably epoch-making, talking about “new beginnings” and a “new history”. Kim even said that he wondered to himself while walking to the meeting “why it had taken so long”. Kim also told Moon that he was willing to visit him in Seoul “any time if you invite me”.
2. ‘No more tests’
Kim is reported to have promised Moon that there would be no more nuclear missile tests. “I heard that you had early morning sleep disturbed many times because you had to attend the national security council meetings because of us,” he told his counterpart from the South. “I will make sure that your morning sleep won’t be disturbed,” he added in an apparent promise to stop the tests. It repeated a pledge he made when officials from the South visited Pyongyang earlier this year but it remains to be seen how firm the promise will turn out to be.
3. Kim’s sister is his key ally
Kim’s sister, Kim Yo-jong, was by his side throughout as formalities were conducted at the House of Peace. She handed him a pen to sign a guestbook, she took the schoolchildren’s flowers from his hand and sat next to him scribbling notes at the start of the talks with Moon.
4. The voice
Although we’ve heard Kim’s speaking voice a few times in speeches, we’ve never heard him in conversation until today. A South Korean Bloomberg reporter said Kim didn’t sound like he had much of an accent and “wouldn’t sound out of place in Seoul”. Kim’s smiles and swagger as he walked to meet Moon at the border also spoke volumes.
5. Tension remains
Despite the upbeat feel, there’s still a great deal of scepticism about what it all means for peace on the peninsula. Robert Kelly of Pusan national university in South Korea warned that Pyongyang “hasn’t really changed, and it hasn’t offered a meaningful concession yet”, adding there were still “huge” strategic and political divisions between the North on one hand, and the South and the US on the other. “We have had false dawns before on the Korean peninsula,” Australian prime minister Malcolm Turnbull warned rather gloomily. Donald Trump said overnight that he didn’t even know if his proposed meeting with Kim “would even take place”, so there was an unspoken focus on that future summit with neither Kim nor Moon saying anything about it. So, still tense times on the peninsula.