The two Koreas on Thursday set a date for a rare inter-Korean summit, following a high-level meeting that was held days after the nuclear-armed North’s leader Kim Jong Un made his international debut with a surprise trip to China.
“According to the will of both leaders, the South and North agreed to hold the ‘2018 South-North summit’ on April 27 at the South’s Peace House in Panmunjom,” said a joint press statement, read out in turn by both delegations’ leaders.
The meeting between Kim Jong Un, leader of nuclear-armed North Korea, and the South’s President Moon Jae-in will be only the third of its kind, and will be followed by landmark talks with US President Donald Trump which could come as early as May.
The venue will make Kim the first North Korean leader to set foot in the South since the end of the Korean War — although according to Pyongyang’s official accounts, during the conflict his grandfather and predecessor Kim Il Sung went several times to Seoul, which twice fell to his forces.
Another round of working-level talks next Wednesday will discuss issues including protocol and security.
Thursday’s meeting was held in the Unification Pavilion on Panmunjom’s northern side, where the leader of Pyongyang’s delegation Ri Son Gwon said: “Over the past 80 days or so, many events that were unprecedented in inter-Korean relations took place.”
Next month’s meeting comes after previous inter-Korean summits in 2000 and 2007, since when the North has made extensive progress in its nuclear weapons and ballistic missile programmes.
It has been subjected to multiple rounds of sanctions by the UN Security Council, US, South and others as a result, and tensions in the region have soared, with Kim and Trump engaging in a fiery war of words last year.
But a rapid rapprochement on the peninsula was kicked off by the Winter Olympics in the South and events have moved quickly since then, with a flurry of official visits between the two Koreas.
An advance team of Southern performers headed north on Thursday ahead of K-pop concerts in Pyongyang.