About the Author
Dagyum Ji is a senior NK News correspondent based in Seoul. She previously worked for Reuters TV.
The two Koreas on Monday agreed to hold a third summit between DPRK leader Kim Jong Un and ROK President Moon Jae-in in September, a joint press statement released following a high-level inter-Korean meeting at Panmunjom said.
The two sides met at the Tongilgak on the northern part of Panmunjom between 1000 and 1335 local time.
“The South together with the North, reviewed the progress of implementing the Panmunjeom Declaration, and discussed further methods to fulfill the Declaration in a sincere manner,” the joint press statement read.
“Furthermore, the South and the North agreed to hold the scheduled Inter-Korean Summit within September in Pyongyang.”
The summit, should it go ahead, will be the third between Moon and Kim this year and the fifth meeting between the leaders of the two Koreas in history.
Their first meeting took place at the Peace House on the southern part of Panmunjom on April 27 and saw the two leaders sign the Panmunjom Declaration in which Moon agreed, among other things, to visit Pyongyang this fall.
The South Korean presidential office on Sunday said Seoul expected both sides to reach an agreement on the “time, place, and the scale of the delegation to North Korea” at talks today.
Seoul’s four-member delegation to Monday’s meeting was led by Minister of Unification Cho Myoung-gyon, who was joined by Second Deputy Chief of the Presidential National Security Office Nam Gwan-pyo, Vice Minister of Unification Chun Hae-sung, and Deputy Director-General of Prime Minister’s Office Ahn Moon-hyun.
North Korean chief delegate Ri Son Gwon, who serves as chairman of the DPRK’s Committee for the Peaceful Reunification of the Country (CPRC), told South Korean pool reporters that both sides has set the date for the summit during his briefing meeting.
“It will be held in September. The date has been decided,” Ri said, when asked whether the summit would overlap with September 9: the date of the DPRK’s founding anniversary.
“We didn’t announce the date to make journalists curious. The date has been set,” he added.
Presidential spokesperson Kim Eui-keum later in the day said it “may be a little difficult” to hold the next summit in early September.
“As North Korea is the one making the invitation, we set the date taking into the North’s circumstances into consideration,” he said. “As… Ri Son Gwon said the date has been decided, I believe it will be announced before long.”
In a speech following the final round of meetings, Ri also asked Seoul to reflect on the problems raised by the DPRK delegation during Monday’s meeting, saying the two sides had many pending issues to resolve, including plans to open a joint liaison office in Kaesong, reunions of separated families, and inter-Korean cooperation in the field of road, railway, and forestry.
“I think it’s is very significant to swiftly remove barriers which block the improvement of inter-Korean relations and resolve the unsettled issues between the North and the South one by one having the responsibility,” Ri said – likely a reference to Seoul’s continued support for international sanctions against the DPRK.
“As I mentioned again, I believe unexpected problems can arise and progress can undergo difficulties if the issues raised during the inter-Korean meetings and individual contacts aren’t resolved.”
Ri urged his counterpart Cho to take “necessary action” in Seoul so that both Koreans could make progress in inter-Korean projects.
In response to Ri’s warning, Cho said Pyongyang had “stressed its general stance again,” adding that the North had simply reiterated “various issues that have been always raised with regard to the inter-Korean relations.”
Speaking at the news conference following the meeting, the unification minister said both sides had assessed the implementation of the Panmunjom Declaration in the fields of military, sports, and road, railway, and forest cooperation.
Cho said Seoul and Pyongyang had agreed to hold an opening ceremony for the liaison office with resident representatives in the now-shuttered Kaesong Industrial Complex (KIC) “in the near future” when repair works are complete.
The two sides also reportedly discussed inter-Korean economic cooperation and sanctions.
“We discussed a lot. I’ve mentioned the issue through many opportunities in Seoul, but I have nothing more to say on it …,” Cho said, when asked whether inter-Korean economic cooperation was being hampered by international sanctions.
“We discussed the issue of working together for the development of the inter-Korean relations within such a framework.”
Despite the North’s delegation being comprised almost entirely of officials involved in inter-Korean economic policy, Monday’s short joint statement offered no details on the next steps for DPRK-ROK cross-border projects.
Monday also saw the two Koreas begin to conduct a joint on-site survey of rail sections between Kaesong and Pyongyang on the Gyeongui line.
The South Korean Ministry of Unification (MOU) previously said the visit was originally scheduled to take place from August 10, but had been postponed on Pyongyang’s request.
A joint research team on the connection and modernization of inter-Korean roads was set to hold its first meeting in Kaesong the same day of the on-site inspection.
Seoul and Pyongyang have pushed forward with railway, road, and forest cooperation, though the projects have largely been limited to on-site inspections.
Edited by Oliver Hotham
Featured image: Joint inter-Korean summit press corps