Koreas to hold high-level talks in lead-up to summit
Discussions will aim to resolve the stand-off over the North's nuclear programme
North and South Korea agreed to hold high-level talks next week to prepare for an April summit between the countries' respective leaders Kim Jong Un and South Korean President Moon Jae-in, South Korea said on Saturday.
The summit will aim to improve relations and resolve the standoff over the North's nuclear programme.
Unification Minister Cho Myoung-gyon will lead the South's delegation at the March 29 meeting at the border village of Panmunjom, where officials will discuss the date and specific agendas of the summit, according to the Unification Ministry. The North's delegation will be led by Ri Son Gwon, chairman of the North's agency that deals with inter-Korean affairs.
The rivals agreed to a summit in late April when Mr Moon's envoys visited Mr Kim in Pyongyang this month. South Korean officials also brokered a potential meeting between Mr Kim and President Donald Trump by the end of May.
The leaders of the Koreas have held talks only twice since the 1950 to 1953 Korean War.
It is unclear whether the leaders' meetings between Seoul, Pyongyang and Washington, if they take place, could lead to any meaningful breakthrough after an unusually provocative year. North Korea in 2017 tested its most powerful nuclear weapon to date and test-launched three intercontinental ballistic missiles theoretically capable of striking the US mainland.
There are also concerns in South Korea over whether the appointment of John Bolton, Mr Trump's hawkish replacement of national security adviser H.R. McMaster, could potentially complicate efforts to set up talks between Mr Trump and Mr Kim, given his past bellicose rhetoric against North Korea.
A South Korean presidential official, who didn't want to be named, citing office rules, downplayed such worries on Friday, saying that Mr Trump remains firmly committed to the summit and is leading the drive to set it up.
The planned summit between Mr Moon and Mr Kim will be preceded by performances of South Korean pop singers in North Korea.
Tak Hyun-min, a South Korean presidential aide who completed a three-day trip to North Korea to arrange the events, said in Beijing on Saturday that it was agreed that the South Korean artists would hold a concert in Pyongyang on April 1 and follow it up with a joint performance with North Korean artists on April 3.
The South Korean artists will include some of the country's most popular pop singers, such as Cho Yong-pil, who performed in Pyongyang during a previous era of detente, and girl band Red Velvet.
Updated: March 24, 2018 02:35 PM