South Korea said Saturday that it and North Korea agreed to meet at 6 p.m. KST, an hour after the North’s deadline for the removal of Southern propaganda broadcasts.
“The South and the North agreed on contact today at 6 p.m. at Panmunjom, the House of Peace, regarding the ongoing inter-Korean situation,” said Kim Kyu-hyun from the South Korean Office of National Defense.
“North Korea yesterday at 4 p.m. proposed talks between (Chief of the South Korean National Security Office) Kim Kwan-jin and (Director of the United Front of the Workers’ Party of Korea) Kim Yang Gon, via a letter written by Kim Yang Gon. Then South Korea on the same day sent a revised suggestion to the North asking for the attendance of (Korean People’s Army Vice Marshal) Hwang Pyong So instead of Kim Yang Gon.”
Kim Kyu-hyun indicated that the message had been favorably received.
“Regarding our revised proposal, North Korea today at 9:30 a.m. stated Kim Yang Gon and Hwang Pyong So will attend, and asked for Kim Kwan-jin and (Minister of Unification) Hong Yong-pyo,” he said. “We accepted the position of the North, and suggested talks at 6 p.m. at the House of Peace at Panmunjom, and the North accepted it.”
The North had originally stated that the South had until 5 p.m. its time (5:30 KST) to remove its loudspeakers broadcasting anti-North messages or conflict would result. South Korean intelligence had indicated that the North was preparing for short-to-medium-range missile launches.
The meeting sets up an opportunity, one expert said, for a favorable deal between the two Koreas, but also for the situation to go awry once again.
“It’s interesting that Unification Minister Hong and (WKP) Secretary Kim will attend the meeting scheduled at Panmunjom,” said Daniel Pinkston of the International Crisis Group. “I think this means issue linage might be on the table to deescalate. The ROK could turn off the loudspeakers for family reunions, for example.
“With the temporary suspension of UFG, Pyongyang has a propaganda message to spin all of this as a ‘great KPA victory under the brilliant leadership of the peerless Supreme Commander Kim (Jong Un).’ But the talks could break down. If the meeting collapses with no agreement, then the risk of conflict will be much higher.”
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