Koreas to discuss denuclearisation, ties at April 27 summit

Top-level officials decide on date at talks; both sides to now work on meeting details

The two Koreas had agreed to hold the summit at the border truce village of Panmunjom when South Korean President Moon Jae In sent a delegation to Pyongyang this month to meet North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. PHOTO: AFP

SEOUL • North and South Korea will hold their first summit in more than a decade on April 27, after North Korean leader Kim Jong Un pledged his commitment to denuclearisation as tensions eased between the old foes.

South Korean officials, who announced the summit date yesterday after high-level talks with their North Korean counterparts, said the summit agenda would largely be the denuclearisation of the Korean peninsula and an improvement of inter-Korean relations.

The two Koreas had agreed to hold the summit at the border truce village of Panmunjom when South Korean President Moon Jae In sent a delegation to Pyongyang this month to meet Mr Kim.

Yesterday's meeting was the first high-level dialogue between the two Koreas since the delegation returned from the North.

The two sides said in a joint statement that they would hold a work-level meeting on April 4 to discuss summit details, such as staffing support, security and news statements.

"We still have a fair number of issues to resolve on a working level for preparations over the next month," Mr Ri Son Gwon, chairman of North Korea's committee for the peaceful reunification of the country, said in closing remarks to the South Korean delegation.

"But if the two sides deeply understand the historic significance and meaning of this summit and give their all, we will be able to solve all problems swiftly and amicably."

Tensions over North Korea's nuclear weapon and ballistic missile tests surged last year, and raised fears of US military action in response to the North Korean threat to develop a nuclear weapon capable of hitting the United States.

But tensions have eased significantly since North Korea decided to send athletes to take part in the Winter Olympics in South Korea last month. The neighbours are technically still at war after the 1950-53 conflict ended with a ceasefire, and not a truce.

China commended the two sides for their efforts to improve ties.

"We hope the momentum of dialogue can continue and that the peaceful situation also can last," Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Lu Kang told a briefing.

Mr Kim is scheduled to meet US President Donald Trump some time in May to discuss denuclearisation, although a time and place have not been set for that summit.

Mr Trump welcomed a recent meeting between Mr Kim and Chinese President Xi Jinping, while calling for continued pressure on the isolated regime.

"Maximum sanctions and pressure must be maintained at all cost," Mr Trump said.

Mr Kim met Mr Xi in a surprise visit to Beijing this week, his first trip outside the isolated North since he came to power in 2011.

Even more surprising was Mr Kim's pledge to denuclearise the Korean peninsula. That commitment was reported by Chinese state media, although North Korea's official media made no mention of it, or Mr Kim's anticipated meeting with Mr Trump.

Chinese State Councillor Yang Jiechi, who was in Seoul yesterday to brief South Korea on Mr Kim's visit to Beijing, said it should help to ease tensions and lead to the denuclearisation of the peninsula.

"We believe his visit will help the denuclearisation of the Korean peninsula, ensure peace and security of the Korean peninsula, and resolve problems regarding the peninsula through political negotiations and discussions," Mr Yang said in his opening remarks during a meeting with South Korea's National Security Office head Chung Eui Yong.



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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 30, 2018, with the headline Koreas to discuss denuclearisation, ties at April 27 summit. Subscribe