December 07, 2018 11:08
President Moon Jae-in urgently summoned key officials on Thursday afternoon to discuss preparations for North Korean leader Kim Jong-un's possible visit to Seoul. All other Cabinet meetings were canceled that day.
After returning to Seoul from the G20 Summit, Moon sent an official invitation to Kim to visit on Dec. 12-14. The government contacted North Korean officials several times recently to discuss Kim's visit and has apparently now received a positive response from the North.
"There are many signs pointing to an imminent visit by Kim," a source said. "I believe discussions are taking place over the itinerary and agenda based on a date that has been tentatively agreed through unofficial contacts."
But Cheong Wa Dae said no word has been received from North Korea, and both sides appear to be wary of announcing a firm date due to security concerns.
The government believes this week is a watershed moment and preparations are being made to accommodate Kim. Cheong Wa Dae proposed Dec. 12-14, because the North has a series of major events later this month, including the seventh anniversary of former leader Kim Jong-il's death on Dec. 17 and Kim Jong-un's grandmother's 101st birthday on Christmas Eve.
North Korea often treats Kim's itinerary as a top secret and Cheong Wa Dae seems to be going along. His trips to China were announced either after he arrived in Beijing or even after they were over.
Cheong Wa Dae officials also contacted the U.S. Embassy in Seoul on Thursday, possibly to inform it of the schedule. Officials on Wednesday held back-to-back meetings to discuss Kim's accommodation, sites to visit, and other details.
Opposition politicians criticized the government for fixating on Kim's visit without a game plan to get North Korea to scrap its nuclear weapons. Kim Byong-joon of the main opposition Liberty Korea Party said, "Cheong Wa Dae is not Kim Jong-un's official travel agent or publicity officer, and Kim touring Mt. Halla [on Jeju Island] and the N Seoul Tower will not resolve all of the problems."
Meanwhile, North Korea was busy Thursday accusing South Korea of "fabricating" the sinking of the Navy corvette Cheonan and appeared focused on the upcoming anniversary of Kim Jong-il's death.
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