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‘Agreement’ made on inter-Korean summit, says KCNA

Mar 06,2018
In this photo released by the North’s Korean Central News Agency, President Moon Jae-in’s special envoy Chung Eui-yong, center left, shakes hand with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un in Pyongyang on Monday. Kim is holding Moon’s letter, delivered by Chung. Behind Kim is his younger sister, Kim Yo-jong. [YONHAP]
In a more than four-hour meeting Monday night, North Korean leader Kim Jong-un and five special envoys from South Korea discussed how to improve inter-Korean relations and work toward an inter-Korean summit, Seoul and Pyongyang said Tuesday.

Five envoys of South Korean President Moon Jae-in, including Chung Eui-yong, head of the National Security Office of the Blue House, attended a meeting and dinner hosted by Kim for four hours and 12 minutes starting from 6 p.m. on Monday, the Blue House said.

“There were outcomes,” said a senior presidential official. “The outcomes are not disappointing. We believe the details will be announced after the envoys return to the South.”

The North’s Korean Central News Agency confirmed that the two sides reached a “satisfactory agreement” on a summit. North Korea’s leader sent his sister Kim Yo-jong as a special envoy to South Korea in February to invite Moon to visit Pyongyang. Moon’s envoys were reciprocating her trip.

“Hearing the intention of President Moon for a summit from the special envoy of the south side, he [Kim Jong-un] exchanged views and made a satisfactory agreement,” the English-language report of the state-run North Korean media said. “He gave the important instruction to the relevant field to rapidly take practical steps for it.”

According to Kim Eui-kyeom, Moon’s spokesman, the meeting and dinner hosted by Kim took place at the headquarters of the North Korean Workers’ Party. “It is the first time that South Korean officials visited the Workers’ Party headquarters,” he said.

In addition to Chung, Suh Hoon, director of the National Intelligence Service, Chun Hae-sung, vice minister of unification, Kim Sang-gyun, second deputy director of the NIS, and Yun Kun-young, presidential secretary for state affairs monitoring, attended the meeting and dinner.

According to the Blue House spokesman, Kim attended the meeting with two close aides: his younger sister Kim Yo-jong, who serves as the first vice director of the Central Committee within the Workers' Party, and Kim Yong-chol, a vice chairman of the Central Committee of the Workers’ Party. Kim Yong-chol is also known to be director of the committee’s intelligence arm, the United Front Department.

Following the meeting, the envoys and the three North Korean leaders attended a dinner, where more members of Pyongyang’s power elite were gathered. Kim Jong-un’s wife, Ri Sol-ju, attended as well as Ri Son-gwon, chairman of the Committee for the Peaceful Reunification of the Country, Maeng Kyong-il, deputy director of the United Front Department and Kim Chang-son, chief secretary to the North Korean leader.

The delegation is scheduled to have further talks with North Korean officials and return to Seoul this afternoon.

According to the South Korean source, the results of the discussions included an arrangement of an inter-Korean summit between Moon and Kim Jong-un. Steps to end North Korea’s nuclear arms program were also believed to be discussed, he said.

Earlier in the morning, the North Korean wire agency also released a report about the envoys’ meeting with Kim, announcing that the talks with the South Korean delegation took place in a compatriotic and sincere atmosphere.

The report said the North Korean leader and the South Korean envoys had an “openhearted talk” over the issues arising in actively improving the North-South relations and ensuring peace and stability on the Korean Peninsula.

“He repeatedly clarified that it is our consistent and principled stand and his firm will to vigorously advance the north-south relations and write a new history of national reunification by the concerted efforts of our nation to be proud of in the world,” the report said.

“He also made an exchange of in-depth views on the issues for easing the acute military tensions on the Korean Peninsula and activating the versatile dialogue, contact, cooperation and exchange,” the report said.

While the report said Chung delivered Moon’s letter to Kim, it made no mention of Moon’s push for denuclearization and direct talks with the United States. Before leaving for Pyongyang on Monday, Chung said in a press conference that it was his mission to deliver Moon’s message of a nuclear-free Korean Peninsula and persuade Pyongyang to start talks with Washington and the international community.

Chung and Suh will visit Washington after they return from Pyongyang later Tuesday to brief the Donald Trump administration about their trip.

Although it remains to be seen how Kim responded to Moon’s proposals for denuclearization and North-U.S. talks, it was apparent that the two sides made significant progress on an inter-Korean summit.

The North Korean leader broke the ice between North and South Korea by proposing talks to send a delegation to the Winter Olympics in a New Year’s address. After resuming inter-Korean contacts, Kim sent his sister and Kim Yong-nam, the nominal head of the North, to the opening ceremony of the Olympics.

The North Korean media is issuing unusually fast and detailed reports about the visit by Moon’s special envoys to Pyongyang. Photos of the events hosted for the visitors were also released with scant delay.

Kim Jong-un made an unprecedented move by hosting the special envoys at his office in the main building of the Workers’ Party. The building is considered a key target of any U.S. military strike that could be planned.

During the past two inter-Korean summits in 2000 and 2007, when Kim’s late father met with South Korean Presidents Kim Dae-jung and Roh Moo-hyun, respectively, the South Korean visitors were not invited to the Workers’ Party building.

“It was probably in return for Moon’s invitation of Kim Yo-jong to the Blue House,” a senior government official said. “Kim’s decision to make public his smiling face to the North Korean media is probably an expression of confidence or satisfaction with the visiting delegation.”

An extraordinary level of welcome was also seen during the dinner. It was the first time that Kim’s wife Ri met South Korean officials since she became the first lady of the reclusive state.

In 2005, Ri visited Incheon as a member of the North’s cheerleading team for the Asian Athletics Championships. She also met with JoongAng Ilbo reporters for a report from Pyongyang in 2007 when she was a trainee of a musical performing troupe.

“This is an attempt to create the image of a leader of a normal country,” said Chon Hyun-joon, a visiting professor at the Department of Military Security at Woosuk University. “The North Korean media’s speedy reports about the special envoys and an agreement for an inter-Korean summit are also an attempt to take the initiative and send a message to the United States that it must stop any military attack plan because the two Koreas are now talking.”

Since he took power after his father Kim Jong-il’s death in December 2011, Kim Jong-un has had only seven meetings with foreign delegations, all from countries friendly with North Korea, including China, Cuba and Syria.

It was the first time for the young ruler to meet top South Korean officials. He briefly met with Lee Hee-ho, widow of former President Kim Dae-jung, and Hyundai Group Chairwoman Hyun Jeong-eun during their visit to Kim Jong-il’s funeral in 2011.

“There were a considerable number of South Koreans who had met Kim Jong-il when he was alive, so we had information about him,” said a senior intelligence official. “To be honest, we had almost no information about Kim Jong-un.”

The young ruler’s approach to yesterday’s meeting and dinner was clearly different from his father. When South Korean officials visited the North for meetings with Kim Jong-il, he kept them in suspense without any definite schedule until he made surprise appearances.
Kim Jong-un met with the special envoys only three hours after their arrival and hosted a dinner for several hours.

BY SER MYO-JA [ser.myoja@joongang.co.kr]