+ A

DMZ meeting put off for a day

North suggests another parley this Saturday on telecommunications
Apr 05,2018
The night before officials from Seoul and Pyongyang were scheduled to meet for a working-level meeting to discuss protocol, security and press coverage for the April 27 inter-Korean summit, North Korea asked the South to postpone the meeting by a day without an explanation, said South Korea’s Unification Ministry.

The ministry, which handles relations with the North, said Tuesday that the regime asked Seoul through a hotline connecting the two countries in the truce village of Panmunjom to delay the meeting, originally scheduled for Wednesday, to today, which Seoul eventually accepted.

A faxed document read that the North would send six officials to the meeting, and the list will be disclosed today.

South Korea had notified the North it would send seven officials, all from the Blue House, for talks held at Peace House, a South Korean-controlled building in Panmunjom.

The North also suggested another working-level meeting discussing telecommunication systems to be used during the summit be held this Saturday at Tongilgak, a North Korean-controlled building in Panmunjom, to which Seoul has yet to respond.

It is not known exactly why the North decided to postpone Wednesday’s meeting, but a Blue House official who spoke on the condition of anonymity said it appeared Pyongyang needed more time to prepare for the dialogue, possibly because it dealt with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un’s security.

The summit is supposed to be held at Peace House, making Kim the first North Korean leader to cross the border after the peninsula was bisected.

The 34-year-old made only one known trip outside his country since coming to power in December 2011 following his father’s death, which was last week’s surprise visit to Beijing to meet with Chinese President Xi Jinping. That was also the first time he personally met a foreign head of government.

If the two Koreas do meet on Saturday to discuss telecommunications for the upcoming summit, one key agenda item is expected to be the installation of a hotline between Kim and President Moon Jae-in, to which both countries agreed last month.

When five special envoys of Moon traveled to Pyongyang to meet with Kim in early March, both sides agreed to have the leaders of both countries hold their first direct telephone conversation before they meet face-to-face.

A Blue House source said there was high chance a phone would be installed inside Moon’s main office in order to highlight the fact that it was a “direct line” between him and Kim. In this case, as with other telephones used by the president, a scrambler device would be attached in order to prevent wiretapping.

BY LEE SUNG-EUN, KANG TAE-HWA [lee.sungeun@joongang.co.kr]