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Two Koreas to discuss denuclearization in new talks: Seoul

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
North Korea’s leader Kim Jong-un (L) shakes hands with South Korea’s President Moon Jae-in (R) at the Military Demarcation Line that divides their countries ahead of their meeting in the truce village of Panmunjom, on April 27, 2018. (Photo by AFP)

South Korea has announced an agreement with the North to hold high-level inter-Korea talks on measures to bring about denuclearization on the Korean Peninsula, something Seoul says Pyongyang has promised.

South Korea’s Unification Ministry said on Tuesday that during the talks, scheduled for Wednesday, the two sides would discuss specific steps required to implement a declaration issued after an inter-Korea summit last month, including “the common goal” of denuclearization.

“The South and North will hold a high-level inter-Korea meeting on May 16 in the Peace House in Panmunjom, to discuss implementation of ‘Panmunjom Declaration for Peace, Prosperity and Unification of the Korean Peninsula,’” said the ministry’s statement.

The upcoming meeting, proposed by North Korea, marks the latest in a series of steps that have prompted optimism that the 70-year-old hostilities on the Korean Peninsula may finally come to an end.

An image of flowers is beamed onto the Peace House at the truce village of Panmunjom, where a high-level meeting between the two Koreas is planned for May 16, 2018. (Photo by AFP)

North Korea plans to dispatch a 29-member delegation to the Wednesday talks, led by the chairman of the country’s Peaceful Reunification Committee, Ri Son-gwon. Members of the delegation will also include Vice Minister of Railways Kim Yun-hyok and Vice Minister of Physical Culture and Sports Won Kil-u.

South Korea’s Unification Minister Cho Myoung-gyon will lead his country’s five-member delegation.

North Korean leader Kim Jong-un met with South Korean President Moon Jae-in in a historic summit last month. They issued the declaration at the end of the summit. Moon has also said Kim has promised to give up its nuclear program.

The two sides have been reaching out to one another since January. Until then, inter-Korea relations were marked by hostility and permanent fears of war.

The United States, which has substantial presence in the region, was on a war footing with the North on a permanent basis.

But relations have dramatically improved in the past four months and a half.

An unprecedented summit has been scheduled between Kim and US President Donald Trump in Singapore on June 12.

Pyongyang has also announced plans to dismantle its Punggye-ri nuclear test site by the end of May, prior to the North Korea-US summit meeting. It has also suspended its missile and nuclear programs but has not publicly committed to abandoning those programs.

Setting the terms before the talks

Meanwhile, and as the two Koreas prepare to meet, President Moon’s security adviser indicated that North Korea will have to give up its entire nuclear program at once.

“When Kim Jong-un sees President Trump in Singapore, he should give something big,” the security adviser, Moon Chung-in, said at a conference in Tokyo.

He said Trump, as well as the people of the United States, Japan and South Korea, would not be able to accept an incremental approach.

A demand that North Korea wholly give up its nuclear program at one point is unlikely to be met by Pyongyang. And the statement by the South Korean official is likely to complicate any talks.

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