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Dagyum Ji is a senior NK News correspondent based in Seoul. She previously worked for Reuters TV.
North and South Korea have begun discussions over plans for a fourth summit between President Moon Jae-in and DPRK leader Kim Jong Un, the ROK presidential office said on Thursday.
In comments by a senior presidential official at a closed-door briefing to press, the Blue House confirmed “various discussions are taking place” between the two, while declining to say whether the Moon-Kim meeting could take place before next month’s planned ROK-U.S. summit in Seoul.
Seoul will comment officially when able to “clarify” specific details, they added, while confirming that the two Koreas are in consultation over what will be the sixth inter-Korean summit in history.
“We cannot confirm how much progress we have made and what kind of problems will need to be solved [in order to hold the summit] while discussions are ongoing,” they told media.
Contacted by NK News on Wednesday to clarify the remarks, a Blue House official declined to confirm or deny that planning for another summit was ongoing.
“There is nothing I can tell you as of now,” they said.
The two leaders last met in Pyongyang in September, in a landmark summit which saw Kim Jong Un agree to visit Seoul.
South Korea has in the aftermath of February’s DPRK-U.S. summit in Hanoi repeatedly expressed its hopes for another inter-Korean summit, with U.S. President Trump having in the aftermath of that meeting asked President Moon to meet Kim Jong Un again soon.
Moon then said he was open to meeting the DPRK leader at any time or place “regardless of venue,” telling KBS last week that his government had begun to “proactively pursue a summit” with the North.
The push for another summit, however, comes amid increasing tensions between the two Koreas, with Kim Jong Un having last month dismissed Seoul’s “officious” attempts to mediate dialogue between his country and the U.S.
The presidential office also on Thursday provided more details on President Trump’s upcoming visit to Seoul, which will see the two leaders meet for the eighth time just two months after their April 11 summit in Washington.
The official said Seoul hopes the visit will also allow the South Korean public to see “how close the relationship between President Moon and Trump is,” saying the two leaders have seven times and held phone conversations 21 times.
“The number of times [they have spoken] shows that ROK-U.S. coordination has maintained stronger than ever,” they added.
Though that summit has been confirmed to take place after a meeting of the G20 in Osaka on June 28 and 29, the official declined to share further details on the U.S. President’s itinerary while in the South.
They also stressed it was too early to comment on specific topics of discussions for the summit.
In a written statement, the Blue House earlier in the day said Moon and Trump are expected to use the summit to discuss topics including the establishment of a “permanent peace regime through complete denuclearization on the Korean peninsula based on the close coordination between the ROK and the U.S.”
Plans to bolster the ROK-U.S. alliance will be also discussed, presidential spokesperson Ko Min-jung said in a statement.
The White House on Wednesday said the two leaders planned to “continue their close coordination on efforts to achieve the final, fully verified denuclearization” of the DPRK.
Last Thursday saw presidential spokesperson Ko clarify that Trump and Moon agreed that the U.S. President would “visit the ROK at an early date” in a phone conversation on May 7.
Consultations over a planned visit to South Korea by National Security Adviser John Bolton to the ROK are also underway, she added, saying the U.S. hopes the visit will take place after an official trip to Japan by President Trump at the end of the month.
Edited by Oliver Hotham
Featured image: Joint Press Corps