North Korea on Friday proposed holding joint events in South Korea to mark this month’s anniversary of the historic, first inter-Korea summit in 2000, a South Korean Unification Ministry official said.
The proposal was made during a high-level meeting between the two countries held after a surprise summit between their leaders last weekend, as North Korean and U.S. officials scramble to revive a once-canceled summit between their leaders.
Friday’s inter-Korea meeting, itself rescheduled after the North abruptly postponed it in mid-May, follows up on a series of agreements reached at a summit between the leaders of the two countries in late April.
The meeting began in the morning at the Peace House, a building in the southern side of the border village of Panmunjeom in the Demilitarized Zone dividing the two Koreas.
“I believe that there is no problem that we cannot solve together if we deal with it based on trust, respect and understanding of the other side, which is the basic mindset that South and North Korea both agree to,” said Unification Minister Cho Myoung Gyon, the South’s chief delegate, at the start of the talks, according to a South Korean joint press corps.
(Cho Myoung Gyon,right, of South Korea and Ri Son Gwon of the North)
Ri Son Gwon, head of the Committee for the Peaceful Reunification of the Fatherland and the North’s delegation chief, compared inter-Korean ties to “a cart that runs toward peace, prosperity and unification,” adding that the driving force behind the cart is mutual trust and respect, according to the media corps.
Other participants in the talks included vice ministers of transport and culture from the South, and vice ministers of railroad and sports from the North.
Their inclusion has led to expectations that the officials will discuss following up on the agreements made at the April 27 summit and take practical steps toward connecting and modernizing railways, and to jointly participate in the Asian Games in Jakarta, this summer.
During the morning session, officials from the two sides exchanged ideas on schedules for talks on each topic, with no big differences between them emerging during the exchanges, according to the ministry official.
The talks are expected to continue in the afternoon.
The North Korean proposal for joint events in the South relates to the summit between then North Korean leader Kim Jong Il and then South Korean President Kim Dae Jung in Pyongyang on June 13-15, 2000. The leaders issued a joint declaration on the last day of the summit.
The North put off the inter-Korean meeting indefinitely on May 16, the day it was scheduled to be held, citing a U.S.-South Korean joint air exercise under way at the time.
(The Peace House in Panmunjeom)
But when South Korean President Moon Jae In and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un met at Panmunjeom last Saturday for the second time in a month, they agreed to hold the meeting on Friday.
Saturday’s summit was held shortly after U.S. President Donald Trump, citing the North’s “open hostility,” canceled his planned summit with Kim but then quickly revived hopes of holding it as originally scheduled on June 12 in Singapore.
The South’s Unification Ministry said earlier this week that at the high-level inter-Korean meeting, both sides would discuss ways to implement in a swift manner the Panmunjeom Declaration, which was issued at the April 27 summit between Moon and Kim.
Besides calling for the “complete” denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula and efforts to declare a formal end to the 1950-1953 Korean War, the two leaders also agreed in the declaration to hold military talks “at the rank of general” and a reunion of families separated by the war, on or around Aug. 15.
But it remains unclear whether such a reunion can be arranged, given that North Korea has recently made fresh demands for the return of women who escaped to the South from a North Korean government-run restaurant in China in 2016, suggesting that their return would be a precondition for it.