Koreas hold high-level peace talks

Elias Hubbard
October 15, 2018

The commitment to move ahead on the transport links came after high-level talks Monday between the two sides, at which they also agreed to hold a series of discussions on other areas of cooperation in coming weeks.

They agreed to hold ceremonies in late November or early December to inaugurate work on reconnecting the railways and roads that have been cut since the 1950-53 Korean War.

South Korea is pursuing an approach to the nuclear-armed North increasingly diverging from the US.

Moon, who met the North Korean leader in April, May and September, was instrumental in brokering a historic summit in Singapore between US President Donald Trump and Kim in June.

Lim Eul-chul, an expert on the North Korean economy at South Korea's Kyungnam University, said the tight timeline for the groundbreaking ceremony reflects Pyongyang's determination to make rapid progress on talks over denuclearization.

South Korean President Moon Jae-in said Monday (Oct 15) that world powers needed to reassure North Korea's Kim Jong Un that he had taken the right decision to commit to denuclearisation on the Korean peninsula. The North's chief delegate to the talks is Ri Son Gwon, who chairs the North Korean agency that deals with inter-Korean affairs.

Mr. Moon and Mr. Kim then committed to reviving economic cooperation when possible, voicing optimism that global sanctions could end and allow such activity, and holding a groundbreaking ceremony by year's end on an ambitious project to connect their roads and railways.

Head of the North Korean delegation, Ri Son Gwon shakes hands with South Korean counterpart Cho Myoung-gyon as they exchange documents after their meeting at the truce village of Panmunjom in the demilitarised zone separating the two Koreas, South Korea, January 9, 2018.

The Koreas also agreed to hold talks between sports officials in late October to discuss plans to send combined teams to the 2020 Summer Olympics and make a push to co-host the 2032 Summer Games.

Moon has described inter-Korean engagement as crucial to resolving the nuclear standoff and is eager to restart joint economic projects held back by sanctions if the larger nuclear negotiations between the United States and North Korea begin yielding results.

South Korea's Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-wha also said US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo had expressed displeasure about the Koreas' military agreement. Kang was not specific, but her comments fueled speculation that Washington wasn't fully on board before Seoul signed the agreements.

Cho says it was ultimately his call to exclude Kim Myeong-seong from pool coverage for the meeting at the border village of Panmunjom.

But they also reflect the North's efforts to have sanctions lifted as soon as possible, a position with which Moon appears to sympathize. Kim is a reporter for the conservative Chosun Ilbo, South Korea's biggest newspaper, which has been largely critical of Moon's policies.

Moon, a Catholic, is set to meet the pope on Thursday and said he will personally convey Kim's desire for the pontiff to visit North Korea.

"The South and North reached the agreement after sincerely discussing action plans to develop inter-Korean relations to a new, higher stage", said a joint statement released by the South's Unification Ministry.

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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