North and South Korea began a day of high-level talks at the Peace House in southern part of Panmunjom at 1000 KST on Friday, where they are set to discuss plans to “promptly and systematically carry out the agreements of the Panmunjom Declaration.”
An official at the unification minister confirmed to media that a general meeting in the morning had been held for 55 minutes.
The two Koreas reportedly shared opinions on measures for the implementation of the Panmunjom Declaration, the schedule of planned future inter-Korean meetings, a joint event on June 15, and the establishment of a joint liaison office with resident representatives in the DPRK’s Kaesong region.
The MOU official said there were “no major differences in opinion currently” between the two sides.
Despite this, there was some discord between the North and South Korean chief delegates over the disclosure of the meeting to media outlets.
When asked about the agenda of the meeting, DPRK chief delegate Ri Son Gwon told South Korean pool reporters that he would propose the ROK side open today’s high-level meeting to the media as was done during a January meeting.
In response to Ri’s suggestion, South Korean Minister of Unification Cho Myoung-gyon said the two Koreas should first hold a closed-door meeting.
“We no longer hold the talks under the circumstance of distrust, confrontation and clash we had in the past,” Ri said in his opening speech. “Both chief delegates used to leave the place having a hoarse throat after a lot of arguments.”
Cho said there was “no reason” the two Koreas couldn’t open the high-level meeting to the public but proposed exchanging views in private first to allow talks to proceed “efficiently.”
Speaking ahead of his departure to the venue on Friday morning, Cho said his delegation would discuss implementing the agreements between the leaders of the two Koreas “in a speedy manner without setbacks.”
Cho said Seoul would also seek to “create a favorable atmosphere for the DPRK-U.S. summit,” previously scheduled to be held on June 12 in Singapore.
The six-member South Korean delegation is led by unification minister Cho, who is accompanied by Vice Minister for Transport Kim Jeong-ryeol, Second Vice Minister of Culture, Sports and Tourism Roh Tae-kang, and Deputy Minister for Unification Policy Kim Nam-joong.
Deputy Director-General for Office for Government Policy Coordination Ahn Moon-hyun and Deputy Minister for Korea Forest Service Ryu Kwang-su are also part of the delegation.
Pyongyang, in turn, had dispatched a five-member delegation led by chairman of the Committee for the Peaceful Reunification of the Country (CPRC) Ri Son Gwon.
He is joined by vice minister of Railways Kim Yun Hyok, vice minister of Physical Culture and Sports Won Kil U, vice chairman of CPRC Pak Yong Il and vice chairman of the National Economic Cooperation Committee Pak Myong Chol.
Friday’s meeting comes less than a week after South Korean President Moon Jae-in and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un agreed to restart previously-stalled high-level inter-Korean talks at a surprise second meeting on Saturday.
That meeting, the second between Moon and Kim and the fourth inter-Korean summit in history, saw the two leaders agree to discuss pending issues “at any time and without formality if necessary.”
“We also reconfirmed the need to accelerate the implementation of the Panmunjom Declaration,” President Moon said at a briefing following the summit.
The North earlier in May unilaterally withdrew from a scheduled inter-Korean high-level meeting at the last minute, citing pending issues including the then-ongoing two-week joint U.S.-ROK annual Max Thunder exercises.
Following the cancellation, Ri Son Gwon said it wouldn’t be “easy to sit face to face again” with the South Korean government unless the “serious situation” which had caused the suspension of the inter-Korean talks were settled.
When asked on Friday whether he believed this situation had been “settled,” Ri appeared to scold the South Korean press.
“Reporters can ask questions from various angles, but the question should be changed corresponding to the demands of the times,” he told a reporter from South Korean broadcaster JTBC.
“The question should be asked from the perspective of promoting reconciliation and cooperation, but we shouldn’t ask questions which foster distrust and mislead public opinion.”
When asked whether he believed a June 12 summit between the U.S. and North Korea would go ahead as planned, Ri told reporters to go to Singapore and ask the question there.
Edited by Oliver Hotham
Featured Image: Inter-Korean Joint Press Corps
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