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Dagyum Ji is a senior NK News correspondent based in Seoul. She previously worked for Reuters TV.
The South Korean government will propose holding late-March high-level talks with the North to prepare for an inter-Korean summit the following month, Seoul’s Blue House announced on Friday.
The announcement followed the first meeting of the Moon Jae-in administration’s preparatory committee for the North-South summit, held at 1500 local time at the South Korean presidential office.
Pyongyang and Seoul earlier in the month agreed to hold an inter-Korean summit in late April at the Peace House on the southern part of Panmunjom.
“The preparatory committee has decided to push for high-level inter-Korean talks in late March ahead of the summit, and we will officially propose it to the North Korean side,” presidential chief of staff Im Jong-seok, who heads the preparatory committee, said during a news briefing.
The committee will also push ahead with an agreement to send a South Korean performing squad and Taekwondo demonstrators to Pyongyang in early April, Im added.
Minister Do Jong-whan of the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism will serve as the chief delegate, and working-level talks on the trip will be held next week at the truce village of Panmunjom.
“At the meeting, we confirmed that the South-North summit should be a turning point of the fundamental solution for peace on the Korean peninsula,” Im told media following the meeting.
“To this end, we’ve decided to prepare for it focusing on the agenda of the denuclearization on the Korean peninsula, a permanent peace settlement including easing military tensions dramatically, and fresh and bold progress in South-North relations.”
During an off-camera briefing, the presidential chief of staff said Seoul hoped to hold a U.S.-South Korea summit ahead of a planned meeting between U.S. President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in May.
“If the North-U.S. meeting will be held over a period of time after the South-North Korea summit, I think it would be better to hold the ROK-U.S. summit [between the two] and discuss the core agenda,” Im said in comments carried by Yonhap News Agency.
When asked about the length of April’s inter-Korean summit, he said Seoul expected that the summit would be a day-long meeting due to the logistics of Panmunjom.
Despite this, the presidential chief of staff said that the South expects a “new format” of Panmunjom meetings to be regularized.
“I think Panmunjom meeting is very efficient in every aspect… when compared to a visit to the North or an invitation to the South,” Im said.
The preparatory committee is comprised of high-level government officials including unification minister Cho Myoung-gyon, foreign minister Kang Kyung-hwa, and defense minister Song Young-moo.
Chief of the presidential National Security Office (NSO) Chung Eui-yong and Director of National Intelligence Service (NIS) Suh Hoon – who visited Pyongyang earlier in the month – are also members.
Speaking at Friday’s televised news conference, Im said the preparatory committee has launched an advisory group comprised of around 30 or 40 people to “share experiences of the previous two summits and collect opinions from all levels of society.”
Kim Dae-jung-era unification minister and spy agency director Lim Dong-won, who visited Pyongyang several times as Kim’s special envoy, will lead the group, which plans to hold weekly meetings.
Edited by Oliver Hotham
Featured Image: South Korean Blue House