The South Korean and North Korean heads of the inter-Korean liaison office met Friday after a month of no-shows by the North Korean side, amid delays in some of their cross-border projects.
Unification Vice Minister Chun Hae-sung and his North Korean counterpart, Jon Jong-su, held an hourlong meeting at the liaison office in North Korea’s border city of Kaesong to discuss a wide range of issues concerning inter-Korean relations, according to Seoul’s Unification Ministry.
The two sides reaffirmed their continued commitment to developing inter-Korean relations by implementing the Pyongyang Declaration. They also agreed to continue close consultations through the channel and to prepare for more meetings scheduled to take place at the liaison office, according to the ministry.
The liaison office meeting marked the first of its kind since Sept. 28, when the co-leaders from the two sides last met. When the office was launched Sept. 14, they had agreed to meet every week. But Jon, vice chairman of North Korea’s Committee for the Peaceful Reunification of Korea, failed to turn up for a month.
The North’s absence was taken as a sign either of its dissatisfaction with South Korea amid slow progress on inter-Korean projects -- mainly the result of international sanctions against the North -- or of North Korea being busy preparing for negotiations with the US.
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and his North Korean counterpart are to meet next week for a high-level meeting, where they are expected to discuss denuclearization and a second summit between the US and North Korea.
A series of inter-Korean events and talks originally expected to take place in October have been delayed, amid concerns in Washington over the rapid pace of inter-Korean developments without comparable progress on denuclearization.
The events that were postponed included a performance in Seoul by a North Korean art troupe and a visit to the now-shuttered Kaesong industrial park by South Korean businesspeople who operated factories there. A joint study by the two Koreas to reconnect rail links across their border is also pending, as is a groundbreaking ceremony for the project.
Stephen Biegun, the US special representative for North Korea, called for “close coordination” between the US and South Korea, and “final, fully verified denuclearization” of North Korea earlier this week when he met in Seoul with key officials from the presidential office, the Foreign Ministry and the Unification Ministry.
Washington maintains that the improvement of inter-Korean relations should go hand in hand with progress on North Korea’s denuclearization.