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(News Focus) Moon-Kim summit likely to accelerate stalled inter-Korean exchanges

2018/05/27 11:16

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SEOUL, May 27 (Yonhap) -- The agreement between the two Koreas' leaders to reinstate high-level talks will accelerate the once-stalled process of implementing their earlier promise to spur cross-border exchanges and cooperation, experts said Sunday.

In a secretly held summit on the northern side of the truce village of Panmunjom on Saturday, South Korean President Moon Jae-in and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un agreed to hold high-level talks between the two countries on June 1.

It marked the second summit between the two leaders following their first meeting on April 27. It also marked the fourth inter-Korean summit ever following the ones in 2000 and 2007.

"The top leaders of the North and the South agreed to hold the North-South high-level talks on coming June 1 and further accelerate the talks of various fields including the ones of military authorities and Red Cross," the North's Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) reported in English early Sunday.

The agreement came amid worries that inter-Korean ties could be thrown into uncertainty after the North abruptly canceled the high-level talks slated for May 16, taking issue with the joint military drills between South Korea and the U.S.

The meeting was meant to discuss follow-up measures to the April 27 summit agreements.

During their first summit, the leaders affirmed the shared goal of "complete denuclearization" of the Korean Peninsula and agreed to push for an official end to the 1950-53 Korean War and a peace treaty.

The two Koreas also agreed to halt all hostile acts on land, sea and air, and enhance cross-border cooperation while agreeing to hold a reunion of families separated by the Korean War on the occasion of the Aug. 15 Liberation Day.

As the officials of the two Koreas are set to meet Friday, all those issues will likely be put back on the table.

The immediate area of discussion could be military talks the two leaders agreed to hold by the end of May in their April summit. Discussions on how to arrange joint events to celebrate the countries' first summit held June 15, 2000, will also likely be on the agenda.

"There has been uncertainty being raised for a short period of time, but the Panmunjom summit has helped put things back on track," said Koh Yu-hwan, a professor of North Korean studies at Dongguk University.

"Given that all capacity will be focused on the successfully holding of the U.S.-North Korea summit, the inter-Korean relations will also move in tandem with the progress there," he added.

Kim and U.S. President Donald Trump were scheduled to hold their unprecedented summit in Singapore on June 12 to discuss denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.

On Thursday, U.S. President Donald Trump abruptly canceled the summit, citing "tremendous anger and open hostility" displayed in the North's recent statement. The North's cancellation of the talks scheduled with the South and no response to Washington's efforts to prepare for the June 12 summit were also said to be reasons for the withdrawal.

The decision still caught many observers off guard as it was announced right on the heels of the North's highly publicized event to demonstrate the dismantling of the Punggye-ri nuclear test site in front of a group of foreign journalists, catching many watchers off guard.

The North relented the next morning, saying it stays open to talks with the U.S. anytime and in any format, which was followed by Trump saying the summit could happen as scheduled, spawning hope for the two leaders to meet next month.

Rekindling hopes for talks, Trump tweeted that if held, the U.S.-North Korea summit meeting will likely take place as scheduled in Singapore on June 12, saying that "very productive talks" are currently under way between the two countries.

The Saturday inter-Korean summit will likely help break the logjam, possibly salvaging the once dashed hopes for a historic meeting and a breakthrough in the longstanding nuclear standoff.

Moon and Kim also discussed the issue in their latest summit, apparently taking note of the importance of the upcoming summit in making progress in many other issues concerning the two countries.

"There were in-depth exchanges of opinions to tackle the matters which should be resolved to quickly carry out the Panmunjom Declaration ... and to realize the denuclearization of the Korean peninsula and achieve regional peace, stability and prosperity, and the matters the north and the south are now faced with, and the one of successfully holding the DPRK-U.S. summit," the KCNA said.

Moon underlined the importance of the summit with the U.S. to make progress in peace and stability on the Korean Peninsula.

"We two leaders agreed the June 12 North Korea-U.S. summit must be successfully held," Moon said of his latest summit with the North Korean leader during a nationally televised press conference on Sunday.

They also noted their journey "toward the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula and establishment of permanent peace cannot be halted, and agreed to closely cooperate toward it," the president noted.

kokobj@yna.co.kr

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