Leaders of the two Koreas will have their third summit in North Korea’s capital next month, representatives of the two countries said in a joint press statement Monday
“South Korea and North Korea agreed to hold the summit in September in Pyongyang,” the statement said, although the exact date was not mentioned.
The agreement was made during a ministerial-level meeting at the request of North Korea held on the North’s side of Panmunjeom within the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ).
“During the meeting, the two Koreas discussed issues that need to be actively dealt with. They also talked on how to implement follow-up measures to the Panmunjeom Declaration,” said the statement.
In a media briefing, Unification Minister Cho Myoung-gyon, who led the South’s delegation, said the North reaffirmed its commitment for permanent peace on the Korean Peninsula and explained its denuclearization measures.
“Further specifics relating to the upcoming summit in Pyongyang will be discussed at working-level meetings. Seoul asked Pyongyang to speed up its nuclear disarmament talks, which have seen little progress, since the Washington-Pyongyang summit in Singapore. Regarding the request, the North said the country was pushing forward with steps agreed to by the United States,” Cho said.
Committee for the Peaceful Reunification of the Country Chairman Ri Son-gwon, the head of the North Korean delegation, said the two Koreas also agreed to quickly finish establishing a liaison office in the Gaeseong Industrial Complex; and that the South would provide supplies and materials to modernize the North’s railway infrastructure.
The third inter-Korea summit comes amid growing doubts over Pyongyang’s “sincere intention” toward denuclearization that North Korean leader Kim Jong-un and President Donald Trump agreed to at their June 12 summit in Singapore. The “complete” denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula was agreed to in exchange for security guarantees from Washington. At earlier inter-Korean summit in April, Seoul and Pyongyang also agreed on denuclearization.
Since June, the North has destroyed a nuclear test facility, begun dismantling missile test sites and returned the remains of U.S. troops killed during the 1950-1953 Korean War as concessions to the United States. Pyongyang now wants reciprocity from Washington such as a partial lifting of economic sanctions.
The United States didn’t respond immediately, though U.S. State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said it has communication with North Korea both by phone and text after Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and White House National Security Advisor John Bolton expressed “uneasiness” with the lack of progress on denuclearization.
Over the weekend, North Korean Foreign Minister Ri Yong-ho criticized the United States for maintaining economic sanctions and not responding to the North’s request to officially declare an end to the Korean War.
Seoul officials say President Moon Jae-in wants to play the role of “messenger and mediator” in the apparent stalemate.
Diplomatic and government sources, here, say the summit in Pyongyang will directly address a detailed timeline on denuclearization and the weapons that the North will dismantle. Also to be discussed are the economic benefits the North expects in return for providing specifics on denuclearization, and the process to declare the end of the Korean War possibly at a United Nations General Assembly meeting in September.
“The third summit is aimed at maintaining momentum on various fronts based on mutual trust. Talks must focus on narrowing differences between all interested parties to establish a permanent peace,” a Cheong Wa Dae official said.
The ministerial meeting lasted for 71 minutes after starting at 10:00 a.m. Expectations were high that it would be successful as Ri made “goodwill gestures” to Cho.
“I realize that now is an era in which we hold hands to go forward together,” Ri said in his opening remarks, according to pool reports.
“I believe today’s talks are part of a process to improve valuable ties from the seed that the leaders of the North and South provided, to make it grow into a large tree and provide joy to the people. As discussions are ongoing for the leaders of the North and South to meet in Pyongyang, we will be able to provide a certain answer to the hopes of the people,” he added.