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Moon Jae-in landed in Pyongyang on Tuesday morning for his inaugural visit as South Korean President, in the latest landmark effort to seek a conclusion to the Korean War and a renewed commitment to denuclearization by North Korean leader Kim Jong-un.

The summit was described as a “once in a lifetime window of opportunity” and a “diplomatic tight-rope act” by South Korean press, which carried live footage of Mr. Moon’s 747 presidential jet taxiing to the Pyongyang International Airport terminal just before 10 a.m. Tuesday. Mr. Moon was greeted by a crowd waving flowers, North Korean flags and the unification flag, with a blue image of the Korean peninsula set against a white backdrop.

In a sign of the occasion’s momentousness, Mr. Kim himself came to the airport to greet Mr. Moon, with the two leaders smiling and hugging on a red carpet as a brass band played the stirring bars of the North Korean leader’s personal arrival song.

The third summit between the two leaders stands to strengthen North Korea’s status as a state that has achieved increasingly normal relations with its neighbours despite defying the world by amassing a nuclear arsenal.

In the past five months, Mr. Kim has held a series of high-level talks with top leaders in China, the United States and South Korea. The most recent saw him raising hands in a triumphant gesture with Li Zhanshu, one of the most powerful men in China, during North Korea’s 70th national day celebrations.

It was the latest signal that, in many ways, “China has already normalized relations” with North Korea, said Tong Zhao, a Beijing-based non-proliferation expert at the Carnegie-Tsinghua Center for Global Policy. With its regular leaders meetings, “South Korea is in the process” of doing the same, he said, while Russia has been such an unenthusiastic enforcer of the White House-led maximum pressure policy that on Monday the United States accused it of “consistent and wide-ranging” violations of sanctions against North Korea.

All of it has weakened the U.S. government’s hand at a crucial moment, with time dwindling for President Donald Trump ahead of midterm elections that stand to shift the political power structure in Washington.

“The U.S. has lost its coercive leverage” over Pyongyang, Mr. Zhao said.

Nuclear dismantlement remains a key stated goal for the summit in Pyongyang this week, with Mr. Moon pledging on Monday “to promote U.S.-North Korea talks aimed at denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.”

But his top priority is peace on the peninsula, which remains technically at war after hostilities ended in 1953 with an armistice agreement.

“What I seek is not a temporary change that may be decided by international conditions, but irreversible and lasting peace that will literally not shake despite how international conditions change,” he said on Monday.

One of his aims is commercial, as South Korea’s biggest conglomerates eye potential work in North Korea, which covets its neighbour’s technology and capital.

“The two sides have talked about ways to avoid military tensions and the possibility of constructing a railway system,” said Lu Chao, director of the Border Study Institute at the Liaoning Academy of Social Sciences and one of China’s foremost experts on North Korea.

Mr. Moon plans to arrive in Pyongyang on Tuesday morning flanked by high-ranking executives from Samsung Electronics Co. Ltd., SK Group and LG Group.

He will also bring expectations that he can find a new path to nuclear reconciliation between Pyongyang and Washington “and therefore enable a new round of Trump-Kim talks to happen,” Mr. Lu said. “It’s widely agreed that the South played a matchmaker role ahead of their first meeting, so it’s natural for the world to expect Moon to do something similar this time.”

North Korea has told South Korean representatives that it wants to denuclearize the Korean Peninsula before the end of Mr. Trump’s first term. Pyongyang, however, sees its own denuclearization as contingent upon the removal of U.S. nuclear protections for South Korea.

In the meantime, it has shown little sign of disassembling its hard-won atomic arsenal.

“There continue to be signs the DPRK is maintaining and developing its nuclear weapons and ballistic missile programs,” United Nations political affairs chief Rosemary DiCarlo warned on Monday. The formal name for North Korea is the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.

North Korea hopes that “over time, people will start to learn to live with reality,” Mr. Zhao said.

With a report from Alexandra Li

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