Koreas hold high-level talks ahead of Trump-Kim summit

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This photograph taken on May 26, 2018 and released by North Korea's official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) on May 27 shows South Korea's President Moon Jae-in (R) walking with North Korea's leader Kim Jong Un for their second summit at the north side of the truce village of Panmunjom in the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ). Kim Jong Un believes a summit with US President Donald Trump will be a landmark opportunity to end decades of confrontation, South Korea's President Moon Jae-in said May 27 following his surprise meeting with the North Korean leader. / AFP

Seoul — North and South Korea held high-level talks Friday to discuss their ongoing efforts to improve ties ahead of a landmark meeting between US President Donald Trump and Kim Jong Un.

The North-South discussions were originally scheduled for earlier this month but were abruptly called off by Pyongyang in response to a joint US-South Korea air force drill.

But a day after “Max Thunder” ended May 25, the North’s leader Kim had a surprise summit with South Korean President Moon Jae-in at the border truce village of Panmunjom — their second, following a historic first meeting in April.

The two Koreas agreed to hold more meetings throughout this month to carry out the agreements reached between their leaders at the April summit, according to a joint statement released following Friday’s talks.

A round of general-level military talks will be held on June 14 to discuss ways to ease tensions and a Red Cross meeting to plan a reunion for war-separated families is scheduled for June 22.

Officials from the two sides will also meet on June 18 to discuss the prospects of fielding a joint team for the Jakarta Asian Games in August.

The two Koreas formed the first-ever unified Korean Olympic team, a joint women’s ice hockey squad, during the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics.

The current rapprochement on the peninsula was triggered by the games, to which the North sent athletes, cheerleaders, and Kim’s sister as an envoy.

The high-level meeting comes as a flurry of diplomacy is underway to lay the groundwork for a historic June 12 summit between Kim and Trump.

Kim’s right-hand man, Kim Yong Chol, is set to deliver a personal letter from Kim to Trump Friday following talks in New York with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, which made what the US diplomat called “real progress” towards the planned summit in Singapore.

Simultaneously, Kim met Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov in Pyongyang and said the North’s “will for denuclearization of the Korean peninsula still remains unchanged and consistent and fixed”, the state-run KCNA news agency said. — AFP