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North, South Korea fix April date for first summit in years

North, South Korea fix April date for first summit in years
March 29, 2018

SEOUL (Reuters) - North and South Korea will hold their first summit in more than a decade on April 27, South Korean officials said on Thursday, after North Korean leader Kim Jong Un pledged his commitment to denuclearisation as tensions ease between the old foes.

South Korean government officials announced the date of the summit after holding high-level talks with their North Korean counterparts on Thursday.

The two Koreas had agreed earlier this month to hold such a summit at the border truce village of Panmunjom when South Korean President Moon Jae-in sent a delegation to Pyongyang to meet North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.

Thursday's talks were the first between the two Koreas since the delegation returned from the North.

A joint statement from the dialogue said two Koreas would hold a working-level meeting on April 4 to discuss details for the summit, such as staffing support, security and news releases.

No details on the summit agenda were released, with Unification Minister Cho Myong-gyon saying the two sides agreed more time was needed to sort out details although they had exchanged opinions on the agenda "fully" on Thursday.

Cho said the summit agenda would largely address denuclearisation of the Korean peninsula and improvement of inter-Korean relations but declined to elaborate further.

"We still have a fair number of issues to resolve on a working-level for preparations over the next month," said Ri Son Gwon, the chairman of North Korea's committee for the peaceful reunification of the country in closing remarks to the South Korean delegation.

"But if the two sides deeply understand the historic significance and meaning of this summit and give their all, we will be able to solve all problems swiftly and amicably," Ri added.

North and South Korea have experienced a significant easing in tensions since the Winter Olympics in the South in February. The are technically still at war after the 1950-53 conflict ended with a ceasefire, not a truce.

Kim is also scheduled to meet US President Donald Trump some time in May to discuss denuclearisation, although a time and place have not been set for that summit.

Kim met Chinese President Xi Jinping in a surprise visit to Beijing this week, his first trip outside the isolated North since he came to power in 2011.

Even more surprising was Kim's pledge to denuclearise the Korean summit. That commitment was reported by Chinese state media, although North Korea's official media made no mention of it, or Kim's anticipated meeting with Trump.

The South Korean unification minister told reporters Kim's visit to China was not discussed with North Korean officials on Thursday.

Trump and Kim had exchanged threats and insults in recent months. The US leader made the equally surprising announcement earlier this month that he was prepared to meet Kim to discuss the crisis over Pyongyang's development of nuclear weapons capable of hitting the United States.

The North Korean leader's engagement with the international community has sparked speculation that he may try to meet other leaders. Japan's Asahi newspaper said on Thursday Japan had sounded out the North Korean government about a bilateral summit.

Japan's Foreign Minister Taro Kono left open the possibility that Shinzo Abe might meet Kim at some point. Kono said in an interview with Reuters on Tuesday that Japan was closely watching preparations for the North-South Korean summit and the Trump-Kim meeting.

Chinese President Xi Jinping promised Beijing would uphold its friendship with North Korea after his meeting with Kim.

Trump wrote on Twitter he had received a message from Xi on Tuesday night that his meeting with Kim "went very well" and that Kim looked forward to meeting the US president.