North, South Korea agree on third summit to be held in Pyongyang

SEOUL (Reuters) – North and South Korea agreed to hold a summit in Pyongyang in September, the latest step forward in cross-border ties this year after more high-level talks on Monday, the South’s Unification Ministry said.

South Korean Unification Minister Cho Myoung-gyon and Ri Son Gwon, chairman of the Committee for the Peaceful Reunification of the Country, arrive for their meeting at the truce village of Panmunjom inside the demilitarized zone, North Korea, August 13, 2018. Yonhap via REUTERS

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and South Korean President Moon Jae-in met in April and May at the border truce village of Panmunjom, within the demilitarised zone (DMZ) that separates the two Koreas, and agreed that the next summit in autumn would be held in the North Korean capital.

The two Koreas held a fresh round of talks at the DMZ on Monday to discuss the third summit, led by the South’s Unification Minister Cho Myoung-gyon and Ri Son Gwon, chairman of the North’s reunification committee.

South Korean Unification Minister Cho Myoung-gyon crosses the concrete border to attend a meeting with his North Korean counterpart Ri Son Gwon at the truce village of Panmunjom inside the demilitarized zone, North Korea, August 13, 2018. Yonhap via REUTERS

Ri said both sides agreed on specific details, including the date for the summit, but declined to elaborate.

However, again without giving details, he said it was important to clear “obstacles” that prevent inter-Korean relations from moving forward as planned.

“If the issues that were raised at the talks aren’t resolved, unexpected problems could emerge and the issues that are already on the schedule may face difficulties,” Ri said at the end of the meeting.

Cho also refused to specify the problems raised by Ri but said there was talk of humanitarian issues and ways to improve inter-Korean relations.

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He said the next summit in Pyongyang would help improve cross-border ties by allowing the two leaders to discuss the North’s denuclearisation and how to establish peace on the Korean peninsula.

North Korea’s Kim has a held a flurry of diplomatic summits with the leaders of South Korea, China, and the United States this year. Moon, the only South Korean leader to have met a North Korean leader twice, will become the first leader to visit Pyongyang this year.

The North has been heavily sanctioned over its pursuit of nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles but Kim and U.S. President Donald Trump agreed at their landmark summit in Singapore in June to work towards the denuclearisation of the Korean peninsula.

North Korea has denounced U.S.-led efforts to maintain sanctions despite what Pyongyang says are goodwill gestures, including halting its weapons testing and returning the remains of U.S. troops killed in the 1950-1953 Korean War.

U.S. officials familiar with the talks, however, told Reuters that North Korea had yet to agree to a timeline for eliminating its nuclear arsenal or to disclose its size, which U.S. estimates have put at between 30 and 60 warheads.

Reporting by Joyce Lee, Hyonhee Shin and Joint Press Corps; Editing by Paul Tait

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