SEOUL - South Korea will seek high-level talks with North Korea this month as preparations for a summit began on Friday, the presidential chief of staff said, while officials in the South expressed interest in a separate summit with the United States.
If North Korea agrees to the talks, they would be the first North-South contact since a South Korean delegation returned from a meeting with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un this month and a chance for North Korea to break its silence on promised engagements with the South and the United States.
The talks about talks come after the head of the U.S. Pacific Command said the United States could not be overly optimistic about the outcome of any summit between U.S. President Donald Trump and Kim, aimed at ending the North’s nuclear and missile programs, and must go into it with “eyes wide open”. Admiral Harry Harris told the U.S. Senate Armed Services Committee he believed the United States would stick to its demand for the “complete, verifiable, irreversible denuclearisation” of the Korean peninsula. Officials of the two Koreas will discuss key agenda topics and other matters related to the pending summit between South Korean President Moon Jae-in and Kim, Moon’s presidential chief of staff, Im Jong-seok, told a media briefing. “We’ve decided to narrow down the agenda topics to denuclearising the Korean peninsula, securing permanent peace to ease military tension and new, bold ways to take inter-Korean relations forward,” said Im, who is head of the preparation team.
The isolated state has always maintained it will continue to develop its nuclear weapons as a deterrent against U.S. aggression but, according to South Korea, it later said it was open to abandoning the program if the security of its regime was guaranteed.
Im added Moon may meet Trump after the inter-Korean summit but before Trump’s planned summit with Kim in May. (Reuters)