Two Koreas agree to kickstart series of talks on rapprochement

Lim Chang-won Reporter Posted : 2018-06-01 18:56 Updated : 2018-06-01 18:56
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South and North Korean officials exchange greetings at the start of high-level talks in the truce village of Panmunjom. [Joint Press Corps.]

PANMUNJOM, Korea (Joint Press Corps) -- The two Koreas agreed Friday to kickstart a series of talks this month on implementing a landmark peace declaration signed by their leaders, starting with military dialogue on ending hostilities and easing tensions along their heavily armed border.

In June, both sides will hold three different meetings -- military talks, sports talks and Red Cross talks, according to a joint statement issued at the end of high-level talks in the truce village of Panmunjom, the venue for the first inter-Korean summit in April.

The meeting was led by South Korean Unification Minister Cho Myoung-gyon and his North Korean counterpart Ri Son-gwon, chairman of the Committee for the Peaceful Reunification of the Country. It was the first high-level meeting since South Korean President Moon Jae-in and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un signed the so-called Panmunjom Declaration at their first summit.

Initially, the meeting on Friday was to be held on May 16 on how to implement the declaration. Pyongyang suspended it in protest at an annual joint exercise by U.S. and South Korean warplanes, but the two leaders agreed to revive it at their unheralded second summit last week that came after U.S. President Donald Trump called off his scheduled summit with Kim in Singapore.

At their first meeting, the two leaders agreed to stop all hostile acts against each other, seek a peace treaty that would end the status of war on the divided Korean peninsula and push for rapprochement and economic cooperation.

They promised to hold a reunion of families separated by the 1950-53 Korean War in August. The first round of Red Cross talks on arranging family reunions will take place on June 22 in the North's Mount Kumgang resort. Military talks on easing cross-border tensions will be held on June 14 in Panmunjom, followed by sports talks four days later in Panmunjom to discuss a joint participation in the 2018 Asian Games in Indonesia.

The two sides agreed to open a liaison office in the North Korean border city of Kaesong in the near future. There will be more dialogue through an exchange of documents on holding a joint event in South Korea to celebrate the anniversary of the first-ever inter-Korean summit in 2000 that opened an era of exchanges and reconciliation for years.

Other talks on cultural exchanges and on reconnecting severed cross-border roads and railways will be discussed later. The statement called for regular high-level talks, but the date for the next session was not fixed.

The Panmunjom declaration contained an agreement to resurrect economic projects which have been stalled over high military tensions caused by North Korea's ballistic missile and nuclear tests. As a first step, the two sides promised to connect and modernize cross-border railways and roads.

The inter-Korean meeting came as U.S. and North Korean officials are locked in negotiations in South Korea, Singapore and the United States to prepare for an unprecedented summit between their leaders.