SEOUL (THE KOREA HERALD/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) - North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and South Korean President Moon Jae In met at the heavily fortified demilitarised zone between the countries on Friday (April 27) in the first summit for the two Koreas in over a decade.
Expectations for the inter-Korean summit have been heightened by the calibre of his nine-member entourage.
The North's delegation included a total of nine senior party, military and government officials, including Kim Yo Jong, the first vice department director of the ruling Workers' Party of Korea's central committee, and Kim Yong Nam, the North's ceremonial head of state, chief presidential secretary Im Jong Seok told a news briefing Thursday.
According to experts, Kim's pick shows that he is entering negotiations with President Moon Jae In with a focus on denuclearisation, easing of military tensions and expansion of sports and culture exchanges.
The inclusion of Ri Su Yong, who takes charge of international affairs for the party, and Ri Yong Ho, North Korea's Foreign Minister, in the delegation is seen as Kim preparing himself for possible talks on denuclearisation, an expert said.
"Including a Ri Su Yong and Ri Yong Ho was unimaginable in the past, because including them means that the North acknowledges two Koreas on the peninsula," said Professor Yang Moo Jin at the University of North Korean Studies.
In previous inter-Korean summits in 2000 and 2007, North Korea's military officials and diplomats were not included in the list of its delegation.
"Leaving all that behind, Kim appears to have chosen to bring them to the summit in case their conversation touches on North Korea-US relations or nuclear weapons programmes," he said, adding Kim also wants to show that his country is running like a "normal country."
"There are no officials covering economic affairs in the North's delegation, which I think means a matter of economic cooperation is not Kim's priority during the summit," Yang said.
On the military side, Ri Myong Su, the chief of Korean People's Army General Staff and Minister of People's Armed Forces Pak Yong Sik will accompany the young leader.
The last- minute inclusion of Jeong Kyeong Doo, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, signals a possible beginning of talks to reduce arms between the Koreas, said Cho Sung Ryul, senior research fellow at the Institute for National Security Strategy.
"In North Korea, Ri Myong Su and Pak Yong Sik are the ones who could discuss the range of reduction of arms and demilitarisation of the Korean Demilitarized Zone," he said.
From South Korea, the delegation includes Im; Chung Eui Yong, the national security adviser; National Intelligence Service Director Suh Hoon; Unification Minister Cho Myoung Gyon; Defence Minister Song Young Moo; and Foreign Minister Kang Kyung Wha.
The North's delegation also includes Choe Hwi, vice chairman of the ruling Workers' Party of Korea's central committee, Kim Yong Chol, vice chairman of the ruling Workers' Party of Korea's central committee in charge of inter-Korean affairs, and Ri Son Gwon, the chairman of the Committee for the Peaceful Reunification of the Country, North Korea's state agency in charge of inter-Korean affairs.
"Choe Hwi doesn't have a South Korean counterpart during the summit. Sending Choe Hwi could mean that North Korea wants to promote exchanges in sports and culture sector until international sanctions against it are relaxed," he said. "I expect high-ranking and working-level talks to follow."
Choe serves as the chief of the North's national sports guidance commission.
Among the delegates, Kim Yong Nam, Kim Yo Jong, Ri Son Gwon and Kim Yong Chol visited South Korea during the PyeongChang Winter Olympics in February, helping create a momentum of dialogue between the two Koreas. Kim Yong Nam attended the previous two inter-Korean summits in 2000 and 2007, accompanying Kim's father Kim Jong Il.
"Kim Yong Nam's participation was also unexpected. It could signal the North's intention to diversify conversational channels and consideration for a situation where they need to get an approval from the respective parliaments," said Kyungnam University professor Kim Dong Yub.
The presidential office also saw it as "unexpected" that the North included the core military officials and diplomats in the delegation.
"(Seoul) takes the move as a sign that the North is considering not just the inter-Korean summit, but also the subsequent North Korea-US talks, and international cooperation that will follow," said Im, who heads the summit preparation committee.
Im also said that it is not yet decided whether Ri Sol Ju, Kim Jong Un's wife, will accompany Kim on his trip, but expressed his expectation that she could join Kim for dinner.