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View more articles by Colin Zwirko
Colin Zwirko is an NK News correspondent based in Seoul.
High-level officials from North and South Korea will meet on the Northern side of the Panmunjom peace village on August 13, the South’s Ministry of Unification (MOU) announced on Thursday.
The talks will reportedly focus on preparations for the next inter-Korean summit, widely expected to take place in the coming month in Pyongyang, as well as the broader status of the implementation of April’s Panmunjom Declaration.
The North proposed the meeting this morning, the unification ministry said, with the South accepting the offer soon after.
The government’s delegation will be led by unification minister Cho Myoung-gyon, the unification ministry said.
No details about the North’s delegation has emerged, however, though Cho’s counterpart as chief delegate in talks has since the beginning of the year typically been Ri Son Gwon, who serves as chairman of the DPRK’s Committee for the Peaceful Reunification of the Country (CPRC).
Next Monday’s meeting will also represent the first high-level meeting between the two Koreas this month, with the most recent having been general-level talks on July 31, and will come a week ahead of planned reunions between families separated by the Korean War.
“In the forthcoming high-level talks, we will conduct in-depth discussions with the North over measures to accelerate carrying out the Panmunjom Declaration and the necessary details towards the successful opening of a North-South summit,” the unification ministry said.
“The government is working to quickly carry out the Panmunjom Declaration through continued North-South conversations and cooperation . [We] will try our best to continuously develop North-South relations and build a lasting peace regime on the Korean Peninsula.”
The upcoming summit between ROK President Moon Jae-in and DPRK leader Kim Jong Un will be their third meeting this year, and the fifth inter-Korean summit in history.
And while their previous two meetings took place at Panmunjom, April’s agreement between the two leaders saw Moon agree to visit Pyongyang “this fall,” suggesting the next summit will be held in the DPRK capital.
No date for the upcoming summit has been confirmed by either side.
It will also be the two men’s first meeting since the June 12 meeting between Kim and U.S. President Donald Trump in Singapore, at which the DPRK leader agreed to take steps towards denuclearization in exchange for security guarantees.
But the weeks since that agreement have seen high-level DPRK-U.S. negotiations stall, particularly following a contentious round of talks in Pyongyang between Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and North Korean officials.
Next Monday’s high-level meeting will also follow a week in which North Korean criticism of Seoul and Washington in state-run outlet has been stepped up.
Monday saw ruling party organ the Rodong Sinmun accuse the U.S. of trying to “choke off” the DPRK and “blocking” inter-Korean cooperation projects, while an editorial in the paper last week condemned the South for its “preposterous” sanctions support and of prioritizing the alliance with Washington.
Diplomacy between the two Koreas, however, remains ongoing, with talks over joint projects such as railway and road connections and forestry cooperation taking place in recent weeks.
The two sides continued railway cooperation discussions on Thursday at the Paju Customs, Immigration, and Quarantine office on the South side, according to an MOU official.
Joint inspections of railways in North Korea were conducted in July, with officials from both sides first checking conditions on the east coast on July 20 and the west coast the following week.
Modernizing railways and roads was one of the points included in the Panmunjom Declaration, with the two sides first holding talks on the issue in late June.
South Korean officials also yesterday visited the North to conduct an inspection of local forests and discuss ways to protect the environment from harmful pests.
Preceding Monday’s high-level talks will be a major cultural exchange event in ROK capital on Saturday, in which over 60 North Korean labor union members are expected to travel to Seoul for intramural soccer matches at the city’s World Cup Stadium.