SEOUL—It's been more than a decade since the leaders of the two Koreas have held a summit.
Could it happen now?
South Korean President Moon Jae-in told reporters yesteray that he remains open to a meeting with North Korea's leader—if it would improve the strained relations between their two countries and help resolve the global standoff over the North's nuclear weapons development.
It's not a new position for Moon, who took office in May, but it took on new meaning coming one day after high-level officials from the two Koreas held a rare and apparently successful meeting, agreeing on the North's participation in the upcoming Winter Olympics in the South.
A meeting between the two leaders isn't likely in the immediate future. The North's Kim Jong Un hasn't met any foreign leader since he succeeded his father in 2011.
As well, attitudes have hardened since the only two previous Korean summits in 2000 and 2007, when South Korean presidents were pursuing a “Sunshine Policy” of trying to win over the North through engagement and aid.
Moon is a liberal who favours a diplomatic solution to the nuclear issue and whose election ended nine years of hard-line conservative rule.
He was chief-of-staff to former president Roh Moo-hyun, who held the last summit with Kim's father in 2007.
Koh Yu-hwan, a North Korea expert at Dongguk University in Seoul, said a meeting during Moon's five-year term is possible.
“Kim has never met any foreign leader so it would be meaningful for him to make his first summit a meeting between Koreans,” Koh said.
During the televised news conference in Seoul, Moon said, “I keep myself open to any meeting including a summit,” and that he would push for further talks and co-operation after Tuesday's meeting.
“To have a summit, some conditions must be established,” he remarked.
“I think a certain level of success must be guaranteed.”
Moon called North Korea's participation in next month's Olympics “very desirable,” but said inter-Korean relations cannot be improved without progress on the nuclear issue.
He warned that the North would face harsher international sanctions and pressure if it resorts to new provocations, adding that “denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula is the path to peace and our goal.”