President Moon Jae-in and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un have agreed to hold a summit at the end of next month in the border truce village of Panmunjom, National Security Council chief Chung Eui-yong said Tuesday.
Chung, who headed a five-member delegation to North Korea, met Kim on Monday evening and returned to Seoul the next day.
The last inter-Korean summit was held in 2007, when President Roh Moo-hyun met Kim Jong-il. "The two previous summits held in 2000 and 2007 took place in Pyongyang, but the upcoming one will take place in Panmunjom on the South Korean side of the border, which symbolizes the division of the two Koreas," Chung said.
It will be the first time that North Korean leader steps across the military demarcation line to set foot on South Korean soil.
Chung said North Korea might be willing to negotiate relinquishing its nuclear weapons. The North "clearly affirmed its commitment to the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula and said it would have no reason to possess nuclear weapons should the safety of its regime be guaranteed and military threats against North Korea removed," he said.
Kim said that he is aware that joint military drills between the U.S. and South Korea will resume in April and did not oppose them if they "would be of a similar scale seen in previous years," according to Chung.
Whether negotiations will succeed is anyone's guess, but Chung said the North assured him it would halt all provocations including nuclear tests and missile launches as long as dialogue continues. He added the North also promised not to use nuclear and conventional weapons against the South.
Chung and National Intelligence Service chief Suh Hoon will visit the U.S. this weekend to explain the outcome of their trip to the White House. "We believe the timing is ripe for U.S.-North Korean talks to begin," Chung said.
North Korea apparently voiced its willingness to hold talks with the U.S. in exchange for a halt either to joint South Korea-U.S. drills or the deployment of strategic American weapons in South Korea.
But North Korea has failed to live up to its repeated promises over the last decade or more to verifiably scrap its nuclear program, and there is no guarantee it will not go back on its pledges again once concessions have been made.
It also remains uncertain whether U.S. President Donald Trump, who has vowed not to repeat the mistakes of previous American leaders in dealing with the North, will accept the offer of dialogue.
But Trump on Tuesday tweeted, "Possible progress being made in talks with North Korea. May be false hope, but the U.S. is ready to go hard in either direction!"
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