Senior officials from South and North Korea have begun a fresh round of negotiations to make preparations for a possible third summit between their leaders, Kim Jong-un and Moon Jae-in, this time in Pyongyang.
A delegation led by South Korean Minister of Unification Cho Myoung-gyon met early Monday with their counterparts at a North Korea-controlled building in the border village of Panmunjom.
The North Korean team is headed by chairman of the North’s reunification committee Ri Son-gwon, who said another summit “of the leaders of North and South Korea is being pursued.”
He set a positive tone for the ongoing meeting, describing the South as a very close friend.
“We are attending this talk with an intention to get some good outcomes,” Ri told the South Korean delegation.
The leader of Seoul’s delegation also said, “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.”
South Korean newspaper Kookmin Ilbo quoted an unidentified official earlier on Monday as saying that the next summit could be held as soon as late August.
According to the daily, the schedule had mostly been coordinated with North Korea and the summit would likely be held in Pyongyang.
The meeting underway at the truce village focuses on “the timing, venue and the size of the delegation that will visit North Korea,” a spokesman for South Korea’s presidential office Kim Eui-kyeom said on Sunday.
Kim and Moon first met in April in a highly publicized summit in Panmunjom at the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ), where they signed a joint declaration and agreed to work for the “complete denuclearization of the Korean peninsula.”
They met again in May for more informal talks and agreed to meet again sometime in the fall in North Korea’s capital, but released no details.
If the third Moon-Kim summit takes place, the two are expected to focus on hammering out a consensus on officially ending the 1950-53 Korean War, which concluded with an armistice instead of a peace treaty.
North Korean media blamed Seoul on Sunday for what they described as a lack of progress in the implementation of the denuclearization agreement.
An official news website of Pyongyang, Uriminzokkiri, accused South Korea of dragging its feet on denuclearization projects. It wrote in an article that Seoul has been acting friendly towards the North while “being more faithful to its master’s orders of ‘sanctions and pressure.’”
The article was indeed referring to the United States, which has still maintained sanctions — imposed on the North over its nuclear and missile programs — despite a separate agreement between Kim and President Donald Trump on the issue.
Kim and Trump met for the first time at a historic summit on June 12 in Singapore, where they issued a broad statement on working towards denuclearization and better diplomatic relations. The two, however, are still struggling to reach an agreement on ways to accomplish that goal.
Pyongyang, which has so far taken several practical steps, such as putting a halt to its nuclear and missile tests, urges Washington to drop the sanctions if it wants the North to keep moving forward with such measures.