Koreas to hold historic summit next month

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and South Korea's President Moon Jae-in will hold a rare meeting aimed at improving ties and easing tensions on April 27, authorities announced Thursday.

North Korean leader Kim Jong-un (C) was treated to a lavish welcome by Chinese President Xi Jinping during a secretive trip to Beijing as both sides seek to fix frayed ties ahead of landmark summits with Seoul and Washington.

The venue will make Kim the first North Korean leader to set foot in the South since the end of the Korean War - although according to Pyongyang's official accounts, during the conflict his grandfather and predecessor Kim Il Sung went several times to Seoul, which twice fell to his forces. He called for officials from both countries to do their best to "perfectly secure the historic meeting between the leaders".

A joint press statement released by South Korea's Unification Ministry, which handles relations with North Korea, said that a working-level meeting between the two countries discussing protocol, security and press coverage for the summit will be held next Wednesday on South Korea's side of Panmunjom, which straddles the border.

The agreement on the date for the upcoming meeting comes after Kim traveled to China and met with its leader Xi Jinping, who has always been the hermit kingdom's biggest ally but has recently agreed to stricter sanctions against it.

Suga welcomed plans for an April 27 meeting between the leaders of the two Koreas as a sign of progress resulting from global pressure on North Korea.

The setting of the meeting date came after Kim said on a historic trip to China's capital this week that he is committed to denuclearizing the Korean Peninsula, Chinese state media reported.

The agreement came at a ministerial-level inter-Korean meeting held on Thursday at a facility on the North Korean side of the border truce village of Panmunjom.

The North's three delegates were led by Ri Son Gwon, chairman of a state agency that deals with inter-Korean affairs.

When asked whether such issues would shape the discussions between Kim and Moon, Cho said "Yes".

Trump and Kim had exchanged insults and veiled threats of war in recent months but the USA leader made the surprising announcement this month that he was prepared to meet Kim to discuss the crisis over the North's development of weapons.

Furthermore, Kim had made an unannounced and surprise visit to Beijing, where he met Chinese President Xi Jinping, that reportedly took place from March 25 to March 28. He said at his swearing-in ceremony in 2017 "for peace on the Korean Peninsula, I will do everything that I can do".

Washington and Seoul have said Mr Kim previously told South Korean envoys that he was willing to put his nuclear weapons up for negotiation in his talks with Mr Trump.

This year's planned summits follow a series of inter-Korean meetings since January that included cooperative efforts in line with the South hosting the Winter Olympics and Paralympics.

President Moon Jae-in will also receive a courtesy visit from Yang on Friday.

But tension has eased significantly since North Korea chose to send athletes to the Winter Olympics in South Korea in February.

It was Kim's first foreign trip since taking power in late 2011. However, the North has yet to officially confirm its interest in a summit between Kim and Trump.

An advance team of Southern performers headed north on Thursday ahead of K-pop concerts in Pyongyang.

  • Steve Townsend