North and South Korea set to make big joint announcement


In what would amount to a stunning development, North and South Korea are in discussions to announce at next week's leaders' summit an official end to the military conflict between the two neighbors, which remain technically at war, the South's Munhwa Ilbo daily reported Monday, citing an unidentified "key" South Korean official.

South Korean security officials may visit North Korea to finalize details ahead for the first summit since 2007, where the South hopes the North will confirm a commitment to give up its nuclear program, a South Korean official said on Tuesday.

The North initially reached out to South Korea when Kim said in his New Year's address that his country was willing to participate in the PyeongChang Winter Games and hold talks with Seoul to realize that.

Panmunjom, a site that symbolizes the division of the two Koreas, will soon be a historic venue for reconciliation, as President Moon Jae-in and Kim will gather there on April 27th.

According to Rhee Sang Hyong, the major challenge at the forthcoming meetings is a gap in the US' and North Korea's approaches to the problem of denuclearization.

Moon has been reviewing a framework of the statement which could be called the April 27 declaration or the Panmunjom declaration, he said. The talks yielded an agreement to organize a meeting between the leaders of the two Koreas.

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Thae said if Seoul makes concessions to the North, like lifting some sanctions or reopening the joint-Korean Kaesong Industrial Complex, it "should strongly demand improvement of human rights in return".

"A peace treaty should be signed in the inter-Korean summit so that we can build peace and ensure peaceful coexistence", Mr Do told foreign media.

The two Koreas agreed last month to install a hotline for their leaders to help defuse military tension and facilitate consultation.

A direct telephone line between Moon and Kim may be connected around Friday, Moon's chief of staff, Im Jong-seok, said in a briefing on Tuesday, adding that it had not been decided when they will hold their first conversation.

A South Korean delegation met with Kim Jong-un in Pyongyang on March 5. He suggested that prospects for nuclear diplomacy would largely depend on what kinds of rewards the United States can offer to the North in return and whether the North will repeat its previous big demands such as the withdrawal of the US troops in South Korea.