Published: Fri, March 30, 2018
Global Media | By Abel Hampton

Japan mum on prospects for summit with N. Korea

South Korean officials led by Unification Minister Cho Myoung-gyon on Thursday arrived for the talks at the northern side of the Panmunjom border village. 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.

South Korean officials say North Korean leader Kim Jong Un will meet South Korean President Moon Jae-in at a border village on April 27.

China confirmed on Wednesday that Kim had made a secretive four-day "unofficial visit" to Beijing, during which he told President Xi Jinping that North Korea was "committed to denuclearisation".

The current talks follow a surprise meeting this week between Kim and Chinese President Xi Jinping.

South Korean presidential spokesman Kim Eui-kyeom told reporters Thursday: "I expect that the upcoming South-North summit and the US summit will leave a foundation for a permanent denuclearization and a peace regime on the Korean peninsula".

South Korean interlocutors who participated in the high-level dialogue Thursday included Unification Minister Cho, Vice Unification Minister Chun Hae-sung and Yoon Young-chan, senior presidential secretary for public affairs.

Tension over North Korea's tests of nuclear weapons and ballistic missile surged a year ago and raised fears of US military action in response to North Korean threat to develop a nuclear weapon capable of hitting the United States. After the joint press announcement, the leader of the North Korean side was asked about the agenda for the summit, to which he answered only (quote)"our agenda covers everything in inter-Korean relations".

The two rivals agree to hold discussions ahead of a potentially landmark meeting between the United States and North Korea in May.

The summit is to be attended by North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and South Korean President Moon Jae In.

Even so, the two leaders hailed their nations' historic relations, with Xi accepting Kim's invitation to Pyongyang according to the North's official Korean Central News Agency.

Both sides also agreed to hold another working-level talk early next week to discuss further details.

Trump on Wednesday tweeted his optimism: "Now there is a good chance that Kim Jong Un will do what is right for his people and for humanity". Intentions to work towards a peace treaty were expressed in the previous inter-Korean summits in 2000 and 2007, but did not produce an official agreement. "The April summit will be another start of a great journey to denuclearize the Korean Peninsula, bring peace to the peninsula and develop inter-Korean ties", he said in his closing remarks on Thursday.

Separately, Chinese State Councilor Yang Jiechi met South Korean National Security Adviser Chung Eui-yong on Thursday to discuss the recent North Korean-Chinese summit in Beijing.

Washington and Seoul have said Kim previously told South Korean envoys that he was willing to put his nuclear weapons up for negotiation in his talks with Trump.

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