Inter-Korean summit set for April 27 in Panmunjom

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Inter-Korean summit set for April 27 in Panmunjom


South Korea's Unification Minister Cho Myoung-gyon, left, who led a three-member delegation to a high-level inter-Korean meeting Thursday at Tongilgak, a North Korean-controlled building in the truce village of Panmunjom, shakes hands with Ri Son-gwon, chairman of the Committee of the Peaceful Reunification of the Country of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, a cabinet-level agency in North Korea dealing with relations with the South, who led a three-member delegation from Pyongyang. [YONHAP]

The leaders of South and North Korea will meet on April 27 for the first inter-Korean summit since 2007, officials from both countries agreed Thursday in a high-level meeting.

A joint press statement released by South Korea's Unification Ministry, which handles relations with North Korea, said that a working-level meeting between the two countries discussing protocol, security and press coverage for the summit will be held next Wednesday on South Korea's side of Panmunjom, which straddles the border.

A working-level meeting discussing telecommunication systems used during the summit will be held separately, with a date and venue to be announced later.

The high-level meeting Thursday was held in Tongilgak, a North Korea-controlled building in Panmunjom, to iron out specifics for the upcoming South-North summit, which both countries previously agreed to hold in Peace House, a South Korea-controlled building in Panmunjom.

The inter-Korean summit will be South Korean President Moon Jae-in's first time talking face-to-face with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un and the third meeting of its kind between two Korean leaders after 2000 and 2007.

Subsequently, Kim is expected to meet U.S. President Donald Trump for what will be the first-ever summit between the two countries, though the date and venue have yet to be determined.

South Korea's three-member delegation for the high-level dialogue Thursday was led by Unification Minister Cho Myoung-gyon and included Vice Unification Minister Chun Hae-sung and Yoon Young-chan, senior presidential secretary for public affairs.

The North was represented by Ri Son-gwon, chairman of the Committee of the Peaceful Reunification of the Country of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, a cabinet-level agency overlooking relations with the South; Jon Jong-su, vice chairman of the same committee; and Kim Myong-il, a director-level official from the committee.

The talks were held a day after Kim Jong-un returned home from a surprise visit to China from Monday to Tuesday on the invitation of Chinese President Xi Jinping, through which both countries agreed to improve recently strained ties. It was the young leader's first known trip outside North Korea since he took power in December 2011 following his father's death, and his first meeting with another government leader.

Pundits speculated Xi's invitation to Kim was a reflection of China's anxiety that it was bypassed in the recent flurry of diplomatic overtures among Seoul, Pyongyang and Washington, and that it perceived its grip over Northeast Asia affairs waning. For North Korea, the regime could have sought Beijing's help in easing economic sanctions against the regime, and support from Xi was critical in building its negotiating power with the United States for when Kim meets Trump.

Trump said in a tweet on Wednesday that he received a message from Xi the previous night in which the Chinese president said his meeting with Kim went "very well" and that Kim was looking forward to meeting Trump. Regardless of that, "maximum sanctions and pressure must be maintained at all cost," Trump wrote.

In another tweet the same day, Trump said that he was looking forward to the meeting with Kim now that there was a "good chance" the North Korean leader would do "what is right for his people and for humanity."

White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said the Xi-Kim dialogue was a "good indication that the maximum pressure campaign has been working," because for the first time since Kim rose to power, he left the country to meet the head of a foreign government.

"We want to make sure that it's done as soon as we can," Sanders said of the U.S.-North Korea summit, "but we also want to make sure it's done properly. And we're working towards that goal."

Sanders continued that the administration thought "things are moving in the right direction," though it would remain "cautiously optimistic" about the recent developments.

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