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(3rd LD) Koreas begins high-level talks to discuss implementation of summit agreement

All News 11:34 June 01, 2018

(ATTN: RECASTS throughout with updated info)

PANMUNJOM, Korea, June 1 (Joint Press Corps-Yonhap) -- South and North Korea emphasized the importance of mutual trust and respect as they kicked off high-level talks on Friday to discuss steps to implement the agreement reached by their leaders in their April and May summits.

The high-level talks started at 10 a.m. at the truce village of Panmunjom in the heavily fortified Demilitarized Zone that divides the Koreas, according to the unification ministry.

Unification Minister Cho Myoung-gyon leads South Korea's five-member delegation, including Vice Transport Minister Kim Jeong-ryeol and Vice Culture Minster Roh Tae-kang.

The North's five-member team is headed by Ri Son-gwon, chairman of the Committee for the Peaceful Reunification of the Country. It also includes Vice Railroad Minister Kim Yun-hyok and Vice Sports Minister Won Kil-u.

This photo, taken by the Joint Press Corps on June 1, 2018, shows South Korea's chief delegate Cho Myoung-gyon (L) shaking hands with his North Korean counterpart Ri Son-gwon before holding high-level talks. (Yonhap)

"Looking back on the inter-Korean relationship, it can be compared to a cart that runs toward peace, prosperity and unification," North Korea's chief delegate Ri said at the start of the talks.

"We can think of North and South Korea as the wheels that move the cart forward," he said, adding that the driving force behind the cart is mutual "trust and respect.

Cho echoed the view.

"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," the South's chief delegate said.

The morning session ended in less than an hour, the unification ministry said.

"The two sides exchanged broad ideas with regard to schedules for talks in each sector, joint events to mark the June 15 summit (held in 2000) and the (opening of) a liaison office. After reviewing each other's proposals, they agreed to meet again," a ministry official said. "There appears to be no big differences in their stances."

The meeting is mainly intended to discuss follow-up measures to the agreements that South Korean President Moon Jae-in and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un reached in their summits held on April 27 and May 26.

In the Panmunjom Declaration adopted during the April meeting, the two reaffirmed the goal of complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula, agreed to halt all hostile acts against each other, open a joint liaison office in the North's border city of Kaesong and vowed various cooperation efforts.

They also promised to hold a reunion of families divided by the 1950-53 Korean War on the occasion of the Aug. 15 Liberation Day.

During the high-level talks, the two Koreas are also expected to discuss details related to arranging joint events to mark the June 15 declaration adopted after the first inter-Korean summit in 2000.

Given that the delegations include officials handling transportation and railroad affairs, it is expected that linking railroads along their western and eastern regions could be on the agenda, as agreed upon in the April summit.

A full-blown cross-border economic cooperation, however, would take time due to multilayered sanctions imposed on the North in the wake of its missile and nuclear tests until late last year, observers said.

Unification Minister Cho Myoung-gyon speaks before he leaves for inter-Korean talks on June 1, 2018. (Yonhap)

The high-level talks were originally scheduled for May 16, but the North abruptly called it off at the last minute, taking issue with joint military drills between South Korea and the United States.

In an apparently hastily arranged second inter-Korean summit last week, the leaders of the two Koreas agreed to hold high-level talks on June 1 to map out detailed steps to implement the Panmunjom Declaration and agreed to work together to make a North Korea-U.S. summit happen.

A flurry of diplomacy is under way to prepare for a potential summit between North Korea and the U.S., which will likely take place in Singapore on June 12 to discuss denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.

North Korean leader Kim Jong-un has reaffirmed his commitment to denuclearization in a meeting with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov in Pyongyang on Thursday and expressed hope for a "stage-by-stage" resolution of the nuclear standoff, according to the North's state media Friday.


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