Guarded optimism appears to be the stance South Korean President Moon Jae-in has chosen to take regarding the latest leap forward in relations between the two Koreas.
According to President Moon's press secretary, the South Korean leader made clear on Wednesday that his end goal remains unchanged: North Korea's denuclearization and that sanctions on Pyongyang will not be eased for the sake of a summit with the North's Kim Jong-un.
President Moon's remarks follow his envoys' press briefing on the outcome of their two-day visit to North Korea.
"South and North Korea have agreed to hold the third leaders' summit at Peace House in Panmunjom in late April. For this, we agreed to hold working level talks."
The Peace House is a building that sits on the South Korean side of the so-called truce village that straddles the border and if the summit is held here, it would mark the first time a North Korean leader has stepped on South Korean soil since the end of the Korean War in early 1950s.
In another remarkable development, South Korea said North Korea is willing to talk to the U.S. about giving up its nuclear weapons and has agreed to refrain from conducting nuclear and missile tests while engaging in dialogue.
Plus, for the first time ever, the two sides will open a communication hotline so that Moon and Kim can directly speak to one another before the get-together.
"North Korea clearly stated its willingness to denuclearize. It also clarified that it had no reason to retain nuclear weapons if the military threat to North Korea is resolved and regime security is guaranteed."
It's a positive statement that caught many by surprise but when parsed comes with significant caveats.
Pyongyang's reference to elimination of "military threat" against the regime could run counter to U.S. priorities which has 28,5-hundred troops stationed in South Korea.
"Along with Suh Hoon, Director of the National Intelligence Service and others, I will soon be visiting the U.S. to explain the outcome of our North Korea visit. We also plan to visit China and Russia following the U.S. trip."
The presidential envoys leave for Washington Thursday morning.
Despite the caveats, the agreements represent a significant diplomatic accomplishment for South
Korean President Moon Jae-in who used the Winter Olympic Games to engineer a thaw in relations with the North that had previously seemed a distant prospect.
Moon Connyoung, Arirang News, the Blue House.