World

North and South Korea to hold historic summit

Pyongyang will do this in exchange for guarantees about its security

SEOUL The leaders of North and South Korea will hold a historic summit in the Demilitarised Zone next month after Pyongyang offered to give up its nuclear weapons in exchange for security guarantees, Seoul said yesterday.

The North is subject to multiple rounds of UN Security Council sanctions over its atomic and ballistic missile programmes, and has long insisted that its "treasured sword" is not up for negotiation.

But it is willing to halt the programme if its national security - and that of its leadership - is guaranteed, the South's national security adviser Chung Eui-yong told a briefing after returning from the North, where he met leader Kim Jong Un.

That remains a high threshold - Pyongyang has considered itself at risk of invasion by the US since the Korean War ended in a ceasefire in 1953, leaving the two sides technically still at war.

CRUCIAL CONCESSION

But, Mr Chung said, Kim is willing to discuss denuclearisation in talks with Washington - which could be the crucial concession needed to enable a dialogue to happen.

The US has long insisted that Pyongyang take concrete steps towards denuclearisation as a precondition.

Yesterday's developments are the latest steps in a rapid Olympics-driven rapprochement on the peninsula, and come after a year of high tensions during which Pyongyang carried out its most powerful nuclear test to date, along with multiple missile launches, including rockets capable of reaching the US mainland.

Kim and US President Donald Trump traded personal insults and threats of war, sending fears of conflict spiralling.

But the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics in the South triggered an apparent transformation, with Kim sending his sister to the opening ceremony and sparking a flurry of cross-border trips as South Korean president Moon Jae-in tries to broker talks between Pyongyang and Washington.

Next month's summit will be the third meeting between the leaders of North and South, after summits in Pyongyang in 2000 and 2007.- AFP

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