North, South Korea to hold summit in April

Clay Curtis
March 30, 2018

Panmunjom's "Peace House", a building designated a neutral meeting ground for government officials of both Koreas, will host what will be the third inter-Korean summit in the history of the Korean split and the first in-person meeting between Kim and Moon.

The two-day trip by Yang Jiechi, Chinese state councilor, follows talks earlier this week between Kim Jong-un and Xi Jinping.

Unification Minister Cho Myoung-gyon, the South's chief delegate to the Panmunjom talks, hinted at progress toward including denuclearization in the agenda for the Kim-Moon meeting.

"If there's a need, we chose to continue discussions on the summit agenda through follow-up high-level meetings in April", Cho said.

It will be the first inter-Korean summit since 2007, a delay that may be partly explained by Moon's status as his country's first left-leaning leader in a decade - bilateral ties completely broke down in the interim over the course of two conservative administrations.

North Korea's willingness to hold talks has been welcomed by most South Koreans, albeit with scepticism over Kim's sincerity in abandoning his nuclear arsenal through dialogue, according to a recent poll.

Trump on Wednesday expressed optimism about efforts to denuclearize the Korean Peninsula and said he was looking forward to meeting Kim, though he also said that "maximum sanctions and pressure" must be maintained on the reclusive nation.

North and South Korea are technically still at war because their conflict between 1950 and 1953 ended with a ceasefire rather than a truce.

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Kim subdued those anxieties by reportedly assuring Xi that their meeting "will yield abundant fruits of DPRK-China friendship, and facilitate peace and stability on the Korean Peninsula".

North Korean leader Kim Jong-un (C) was treated to a lavish welcome by Chinese President Xi Jinping during a secretive trip to Beijing as both sides seek to fix frayed ties ahead of landmark summits with Seoul and Washington.

The first summit was in June 2000 between the elder Kim and South Korean President Kim Dae-jung, a proponent of the so-called Sunshine Policy.

Mr Yang is expected to meet Seoul's presidential national security director Chung Eui-yong on Thursday before meeting President Moon on Friday. "North Korea summits to provide a clear turning point for eternal denuclearization and a peace system on the Korean Peninsula", spokesman Kim said.

Thursday's North and South Korean delegations were both headed by the same men who engaged in the first negotiations in January, after Pyongyang agreed to reopen diplomatic communications with Seoul.

"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".

In his discussions with Mr. Xi, Mr. Kim reaffirmed his intention to meet with the two leaders, according to Xinhua, the Chinese state news agency.

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

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