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North and South Korea start talks aimed at setting up leaders’ summit

World News | Published:

The meeting on Monday comes amid growing worries about whether North Korea will begin abandoning its nuclear weapons.

Senior officials from the rival Koreas met on Monday to set a date and venue for a third summit between South Korean president Moon Jae-in and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.

The two leaders, who first met in April in a highly publicised summit and then again in May for more informal talks, previously agreed to meet again sometime in the fall in Pyongyang but released no concrete details.

The meeting on Monday at a North Korea-controlled building in the border village of Panmunjom comes amid growing worries about whether North Korea will begin abandoning its nuclear weapons, something officials suggested would happen after Mr Kim’s summit with US president Donald Trump in June in Singapore.

North Korea is thought to have a growing arsenal of nuclear bombs and long-range missiles and to be closing in on the ability to reliably target anywhere on the US mainland.

North Korea Koreas Summit
South Korean Unification Minister Cho Myoung-gyon, left, shakes hands with his North Korean counterpart Ri Son Gwon (Korea Pool/Yonhap via AP)

After a peace offering by Mr Kim in January, Mr Moon was able to orchestrate his own summits with Mr Kim, which were followed by Mr Kim and Mr Trump’s meeting in June.

The South Korean delegation for Monday’s talks is led by Cho Myoung-gyon, who oversees Seoul’s Unification Ministry that handles inter-Korean issues, and includes Nam Gwan-pyo, a Moon aide responsible for North Korean nuclear matters.

The North Korean delegation is led by Ri Son Gwon, chairman of the North’s agency that deals with inter-Korean affairs. North Korea, which proposed Monday’s talks last week, also sent officials overseeing past inter-Korean economic collaborations.

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In opening remarks, the head of the North Korean delegation set a positive tone for the day’s meeting, comparing the current state of inter-Korean relations to very close friends where nothing can stand between the two.

North Korea Koreas Summit
Cho Myoung-gyon, right, and Ri Son Gwon arrive to hold their meeting (Korea Pool/Yonhap via AP)

“We will listen to the North’s stance on the inter-Korean summit for this fall, which is agreed upon in the Panmunjom declaration, and share our views,” Mr Cho told reporters before heading to the border, referring to the agreement at the April summit.

The meeting between Seoul and Pyongyang comes as experts see slow progress on efforts to disarm North Korea since the Singapore summit.

Pyongyang urged Washington to reciprocate its goodwill gestures, which include suspending missile and nuclear tests and returning the remains of Americans who fought in the Korean War.

Washington, which cancelled an annual joint military exercise with South Korea that had taken place in August in previous years, has refused to ease sanctions until North Korea finally and fully denuclearises.

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