Inter-Korea talks to be held on Thursday

SEOUL • North Korea yesterday agreed to hold high-level talks with the South this week to discuss logistics for a rare inter-Korean summit, Seoul's Unification Ministry said, as a diplomatic thaw on the peninsula gathers pace.

The two sides will each send a three-member delegation to the border truce village of Panmunjom on Thursday for talks aimed at paving the way for a summit due in late April, it said.

South Korea last Wednesday proposed holding high-level talks with the North to discuss details including the summit's dates and agenda.

The talks will take place at the Unification Pavilion building on the northern side of Panmunjom, which sits on the border, with the two delegations led by Seoul's Unification Minister Cho Myoung Gyon and his Pyongyang counterpart Ri Son Gwon.

The decision by South Korea's President Moon Jae In and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un to meet came amid a rapid rapprochement kicked off by the recent Winter Olympics in the South.

The United States and South Korea on Tuesday announced that their annual joint military drills would go ahead next month, but that the main exercise will be shortened by a month. The exercises have caused tensions for years, with Pyongyang condemning them as preparations for an invasion of the North.

The inter-Korean summit is due to be followed by a face-to-face meeting between US President Donald Trump and Mr Kim by the end of May.

Following a period of heightened tensions stoked by the North's nuclear and missile tests last year, a rapid rapprochement has been under way on the Korean peninsula.

The North on Wednesday broke its silence on the diplomatic thaw with Washington and Seoul, with its official KCNA news agency saying Pyongyang was driving the peace initiative and rejecting suggestions that sanctions forced it to the dialogue table.

The North's silence had raised concerns over its intentions. North Korean state media has not yet directly mentioned the summits.

Analysts say the North is carefully watching to see how events - including the US-South Korea military drills - play out before making them public to its people.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on March 25, 2018, with the headline 'Inter-Korea talks to be held on Thursday'. Print Edition | Subscribe