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Pyongyang blasts 'US hegemonism' as Koreas meet

South Korean Unification Minister Cho Myoung-gyon (L) greets his North Korean counterpart Ri Son-gwon, who is chairman of the North's Committee for the Peaceful Reunification of the Country, before their meeting on June 1, 2018 at the south side of the truce village of Panmunjom in the Demilitarized zone (DMZ) dividing the two Koreas. (Photo by AFP)

North Korea has hit out at the US "hegemony" but suggested the two Koreas hold a joint celebration of the anniversary of a historic 2000 inter-Korean summit this month in the South.

Delegations from North and South Korea met to discuss bilateral ties on Friday at the border village of Panmunjom in the demilitarized zone, which separates the two Korea.

The meeting was led by South Korea's Unification Minister Cho Myoung-gyon and Ri Son-gwon, chairman of the North's committee for the peaceful reunification of the country.

The two sides discussed ways to follow up on the agreement reached during the first landmark summit between North Korean leader Kim Jong-un and South Korean President Moon Jae-in in April.

The North suggested that officials, politicians and private sector members from both sides should take part in the joint celebration of the first-ever inter-Korean summit.

The South called for a swift launch of a joint liaison office in the North Korean border city of Kaesong, where the two Koreas operated a factory park together until its closure in 2016.

The North-South discussions were originally scheduled for earlier this month but were postponed by Pyongyang after the US and South Korea launched a joint military drill.

Pyongyang sees US-South Korea war games as rehearsal for invasion.

On Thursday, Kim met Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov in Pyongyang where he complained of US "hegemonism" and hoped relations with Moscow would expand.

“As we move to adjust to the political situation in the face of US hegemonism, I am willing to exchange detailed and in-depth opinions with your leadership and hope to do so moving forward,” Kim said.

His comments came at a sensitive moment, when a senior North Korean official was in New York for talks with US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on a planned summit between Kim and President Donald Trump.

Trump abruptly canceled the summit scheduled for June 12, and then quickly announced it might still be held as scheduled.

Kim told Lavrov that the North’s willingness for the “denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula still remains unchanged” but also that the process should be “stage-by-stage basis by founding a solution to meet the interests of each other.”

North Korea reacted harshly after Trump's hawkish security adviser John Bolton called for a "Libyan model" of nuclear disarmament as well as "complete, verifiable and irreversible dismantlement."

Libya's longtime leader Muammar Gaddafi was killed during a 2011 US-led invasion years after renouncing nuclear weapons.

Kim's letter for Trump

On Friday, senior North Korean official Kim Yong Chol was to hand over a letter from the country's leader to Trump in a rare visit to the White House.

White House spokesman Hogan Gidley said the details of the meeting were still being worked out. It was not clear whether Trump would receive the head of the delegation in the Oval Office.

Trump hopes to meet Kim in Singapore on June 12 and pressure him to give up his nuclear weapons, although he conceded on Thursday that might require more rounds of direct negotiations. 

Pompeo also admitted that there might be no quick solution despite the two sides having allegedly made "real progress." 

"They'll have to choose a path that is fundamentally different than the one that their country has proceeded on for decades. It should not be to anyone's surprise that there will be moments along the way, that this won't be straightforward," he said. 

Kim has rejected previous US calls for North Korea's unilateral nuclear disarmament and argued instead for a "phased" approach to denuclearization of the entire Korean peninsula.

That in the past has also meant removal of the US nuclear umbrella protecting South Korea and Japan.

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