South Koreans visiting North Korea for summit anniversary
South Korean Unification Minister Cho Myoung-gyon, left, talks with Ri Son Gwon, chairman of the North Korean agency that handles inter-Korean affairs, at the Pyongyang Airport in Pyongyang, North Korea, Thursday, Oct. 4, 2018. A South Korean government delegation arrived in North Korea on Thursday for a joint celebration of the anniversary of a 2007 summit and to possibly hold further peace talks. (Joint Press Corps Pyeongyang Pool via AP) (Associated Press) October 4 at 6:53 AM
SEOUL, South Korea â" A South Korean government delegation arrived in North Korea on Thursday for a joint celebration of the anniversary of a 2007 summit and to possibly hold further peace talks.
South Korean Unification Ministe r Cho Myoung-gyon said the visit is an opportunity to strengthen âreconciliation, cooperation and peaceâ between the rivals.
Choâs group was greeted at Pyongyangâs airport by Ri Son Gwon, chairman of the North Korean agency that handles inter-Korean affairs, who said the agreements produced by the series of inter-Korean summits â" two during the 2000s and three in 2018 â" have set the âstandard for reunification.â
In addition to government officials, the South Korean delegation includes lawmakers, civic and religious leaders and the son of late South Korean President Roh Moo-hyun, who participated in the 2007 summit with North Koreaâs then-leader Kim Jong Il, the father of current ruler Kim Jong Un.
The visit comes as U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo prepares to make his fourth visit to Pyongyang on Sunday with the aim of setting up a second summit between President Donald Trump and Kim Jong Un.
Kim and Trump met in Singapore in June, w here they issued vague aspirations for a nuclear-free Korean Peninsula without saying when and how it would occur. Follow-up talks between the countries stalled, with Pyongyang accusing Washington of making âunilateral and gangster-likeâ demands on denuclearization. That left Seoul lobbying hard for a second summit between Trump and Kim to keep alive a positive atmosphere for nuclear diplomacy.
Pompeo said Wednesday heâs optimistic heâll come away with a plan for a second summit between Trump and Kim and progress on a âpathway for denuclearization.â However, he distanced himself from an earlier stated goal of getting North Korea to abandon its nuclear weapons by the end of Trumpâs four-year term in January 2021.
During his three-day visit to Pyongyang, Cho plans to hold talks with Ri to discuss how to carry out the agreements made by Kim and South Korean President Moon Jae-in at a summit in Pyongyang last month. That was Kim and Moonâs third meeting thi s year as they work to resolve the nuclear standoff following a torrid run of North Korean nuclear and missile tests.
The South Korean delegates will also tour major North Korean facilities and attend a performance of the Northâs iconic mass games. Itâs unclear whether they will meet Kim before returning home on Saturday.
During their Pyongyang summit, Kim and Moon said they agreed to reduce the conventional military threat between them and hold another summit in Seoul, potentially within the year. North Korea said it would allow outside experts to observe the dismantling of a missile engine test site and a rocket launch pad, and might dismantle its main Nyongbyon nuclear complex if the United States takes unspecified corresponding measures.
Cho told South Korean lawmakers on Monday that North Korea is estimated to have 20 to 60 nuclear weapons, in Seoulâs first public comment about the size of the Northâs weapons arsenal. North Koreaâs state media on Tuesday issued a commentary urging Washington to lift sanctions if it wants further progress in their stalled nuclear talks.
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