Seoul: Rival Koreas to meet to prepare for leaders' summit
By YOUKYUNG LEE, Associated Press
SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — The rival Koreas will meet Monday for high-level talks meant to prepare for a summit between North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and South Korean President Moon Jae-in, South Korea said, the third such meetings between the leaders in recent months.
The announcement Thursday by the South’s Unification Ministry, which handles inter-Korean issues for Seoul, comes amid attempts by Washington and Pyongyang to follow through on nuclear disarmament vows made at a summit in June between President Donald Trump and Kim.
Pyongyang has also stepped up its calls for a formal end to the Korean War, which some analysts believe is meant to be the first step in the North’s effort to eventually see all 28,500 U.S. troops leave the Korean Peninsula. Washington is pushing for the North to begin giving up its nuclear program.
A South Korean official at the Unification Ministry, who spoke on condition of anonymity because of office rules, said the two Koreas will also discuss ways to push through tension-reducing agreements made during an earlier summit between Kim and South Korean President Moon. Among the agreements was holding another inter-Korean summit in the fall in Pyongyang.
The rival Koreas may try to seek a breakthrough amid what experts see as little progress on nuclear disarmaments between Pyongyang and Washington despite the Singapore summit in June and U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s several visits to North Korea.
Pyongyang insisted that the U.S. should reciprocate to the North’s suspension of missile launches and nuclear tests and other goodwill gestures such as the return of remains of American troops killed in the Korean War. The United States has dismissed calls to ease sanctions until the North delivers on its commitments to fully denuclearize.
The inter-Korean meeting on Monday will be held at Tongilgak, a North Korean-controlled building in the border village of Panmunjom. It wasn’t clear who would attend the talks, but such meetings have typically been handled in the past by South Korea’s unification minister and his counterpart in the North. It also wasn’t clear when another summit might happen, but if the April 27 summit agreements are followed through, the leaders will likely meet in Pyongyang in the next couple of months.
In the meantime, both Koreas are seeking an early end of the Korean War. South Korea’s presidential spokesman said last month that Seoul wants an early declaration of the end of the 1950-53 war sooner than later. The Korean Peninsula is still technically in a state of war because the fighting ended with a cease-fire, not a peace treaty.
Earlier Thursday, North Korea’s Rodong Sinmun said in a commentary that ending the Korean War is “the first process for ensuring peace and security not only in the Korean peninsula but also in the region and the world.”
Seoul said it accepted the North’s proposal after Pyongyang first suggested a meeting Monday to discuss another summit.
Kim and Moon met in April at a highly publicized summit that saw the leaders hold hands and walk together across the border, and then again in a more informal summit in May, just weeks before Kim met Trump in Singapore.