Envoy may be sent to North Korea soon

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Envoy may be sent to North Korea soon


Presidential Chief of Staff Im Jong-seok holds a press conference in the Blue House Tuesday. [YONHAP]

The Blue House said Tuesday that it was “open to the possibility” of its National Security Office chief or head of the national spy agency visiting Pyongyang again “anytime” before the inter-Korean summit on April 27 if ongoing discussions between South and North Korea at the working level become deadlocked.

Im Jong-seok, President Moon Jae-in’s chief of staff, told reporters in the Blue House Tuesday that it was imperative for Seoul to “increase the level of agreement” before Moon actually meets Kim next week, and to do so, his office was willing to dispatch Chung Eui-yong, Moon’s national security adviser, or Suh Hoon, director of the National Intelligence Service, to the North Korean capital if necessary.

Im is leading a governmental preparatory committee for the summit.

Chung and Suh were two of five special envoys who traveled to Pyongyang in early March to meet Kim Jong-un. The North Korean leader told them at the time he was willing to hold a summit with Moon and U.S. President Donald Trump.

A senior Blue House official who spoke on the condition of anonymity said Seoul would have to “seriously think” about a possible visit by Suh or Chung if “several issues remain unresolved until the last stage.”

“We’re not sure yet whether [we’re going to suggest to North Korea that any agreement] be called the April 27 Agreement, or to highlight the venue of the talks, the Panmunjom Agreement,” said Im.

Seoul’s summit preparatory committee is going through “great pains” discussing what to include in its agreement draft, said Im, though a basic outline has been drawn and reviewed three times.

A “major concern” for the committee was just how far the two countries were willing to go with their deal when Moon meets Kim on the southern side of the Panmunjom truce village, which straddles the border.

Im said the agreement probably won’t include anything about economic cooperation as in inter-Korean summits in 2000 and 2007 because the agenda will have to be in line with the subsequent meeting between Kim and Trump, slated for May or early June.

The presidential chief of staff said North Korea’s denuclearization will be raised in the Moon-Kim meeting because having Moon verify Kim’s intentions to give up his nuclear arsenal and stipulating it is “totally different” from having presidential envoys hear it verbally.

A hotline between Moon and Kim was projected to be connected around Friday in Moon’s main office at the Blue House, though Im refused to give a specific date on when the two leaders will actually hold their first telephone conversation.

Seoul hopes Kim approves of holding a joint press conference with Moon after the summit “in order to illustrate a historic scene,” but the matter has yet to be confirmed by North Korea, said Im, as well as whether any parts of the summit can be aired live for the world to see.

The agreements from past inter-Korean summits failed to bear fruit due to a lack of coordination among Seoul, Pyongyang and Washington, which is why the South Korean government thought it was crucial to make sure that the third inter-Korean summit agreement wins Trump’s approval, Im underscored.

A second working-level meeting between South and North Korea on protocol, security and media coverage for the summit will be held today, and further rounds could be held if necessary. A second high-level meeting discussing matters for the summit will likely be held in the coming days, though Im said a precise date depended on the outcome of today’s working-level discussions.

BY LEE SUNG-EUN [lee.sungeun@joongang.co.kr]
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