North, South Korea to hold leaders' summit on April 27

South Korean Unification Minister and chief delegate Cho Myoung Gyon (left) shakes hands with North Korea's chief delegate and Committee for Peaceful Reunification chairman Ri Son Gwon at the truce village of Panmunjom, North Korea, on March 29, 2018
South Korean Unification Minister and chief delegate Cho Myoung Gyon (left) shakes hands with North Korea's chief delegate and Committee for Peaceful Reunification chairman Ri Son Gwon at the truce village of Panmunjom, North Korea, on March 29, 2018.PHOTO: REUTERS
North Korea's chief delegate and Committee for Peaceful Reunification chairman Ri Son Gwon (right) talking to South Korean Unification Minister and chief delegate Cho Myoung Gyon.
North Korea's chief delegate and Committee for Peaceful Reunification chairman Ri Son Gwon (right) talking to South Korean Unification Minister and chief delegate Cho Myoung Gyon. PHOTO: EPA-EFE

SEOUL (AFP, REUTERS) - North and South Korea will hold their first leaders' summit in more than a decade on April 27, South Korean government officials who held high-level talks with their North Korean counterparts on Thursday (March 29) said.  

The meeting between Kim Jong Un, leader of nuclear-armed North Korea, and the South’s President Moon Jae In will be only the third of its kind, and will take place at the border truce village of Panmunjom in the Demilitarised Zone (DMZ) that divides the peninsula.

The two Koreas had agreed earlier this month to hold such a summit when South Korean President Moon Jae In sent a delegation to Pyongyang to meet with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.

Thursday’s talks were the first between the two Koreas since the delegation returned from the North.  A South Korean unification ministry official told reporters the two Koreas would hold a working-level meeting on April 4 to discuss details for the summit, such as staffing support, security and news releases

Top officials from North and South Korea on Thursday  kicked off a high-level meeting northern side of the border truce village to prepare for the inter-Korean summit, days after Kim Jong Un  made his international debut with a surprise trip to China. 

Cho Myoung Gyun, Seoul’s unification minister and the leader of its delegation to Thursday’s meeting, said that setting a date for the third-ever summit between the two Koreas was a key agenda item.

“We will have good discussions with the North to successfully hold the inter-Korea summit in April,” Cho told reporters.

A presidential official said that both sides will likely discuss agenda items and working-level contacts needed to prepare for the summit, reported Yonhap news agency.

"Over the past 80 days, there have been many dramatic events that have not been seen earlier," Ri Son Gwon, the North's chief delegate, said at the start of the meeting.

Ri is the chairman of the North's Committee for the Peaceful Reunification of the Country.

Kim is due to meet South Korean President Moon Jae In next month, followed by a landmark nuclear summit with US President Donald Trump which could come as early as May. 


South Korea's Unification Minister Cho Myoung Gyon crossing the inter-Korean border to go to the Tongilgak building for talks with the North. PHOTO: EPA-EFE

The rapid rapprochement was kicked off by the Winter Olympics in the South and comes after a year of heightened tensions over the North's nuclear and missile programmes, which saw Kim and Trump engaging in a fiery war of words.

Events have since moved rapidly, with a flurry of official visits between the two Koreas before Kim went to Beijing this week to meet Chinese President Xi Jinping for the first time.

China  on Thursday commended efforts to improve ties by North and South Korea and said it hopes positive momentum can be sustained.  Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Lu Kang made the comments at a regular briefing. 

Also on Thursday, China's State Councillor Yang Jiechi, the country's top diplomat, was due in Seoul to brief Moon on Kim's secretive visit to Beijing.

It was the North Korean leader's his first overseas trip since inheriting power after the death of his father, Kim Jong Il, in 2011.

 
 

China has long been the North's key diplomatic defender and provider of trade and aid, but relations have been strained by Pyongyang's weapons programmes, with Beijing showing a new willingness to implement UN sanctions against it.

Even so the two leaders hailed their nations' historic relations, with Xi accepting Kim's invitation to Pyongyang according to the North's official Korean Central News Agency.

"There is no question that my first foreign visit would be to the Chinese capital," it quoted him as saying, calling it a "noble obligation".

Kim pledged that he was "committed to denuclearisation" on the Korean peninsula, according to China's Xinhua news agency - but added that it was dependent on South Korea and the US taking what he called "progressive and synchronous measures for the realisation of peace".

Analysts say that both sides had reasons for the meeting - Pyongyang to secure Beijing's backing and support, and China to protect its interests in what it considers its backyard.

Robert Kelly, a professor at Pusan National University in South Korea, said: "Xi would not grant this meeting unless the Chinese were genuinely concerned about the summits to come and wanted some kind of role to play."