South Korean President Moon Jae-in will meet North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in the North Korean capital later this month to discuss ways to "denuclearize the Korean Peninsula," Moon's special envoy to Pyongyang said Thursday.
At a news conference aired on South Korean TV and reported by the South Korean news agency Yonhap, the envoy, Chung Eui-yong, said the meeting — the third between the two leaders — would be Sept. 18 to 20 in Pyongyang.
"High-level negotiations" to work out the details will begin next week, Chung, the head of South Korea's National Security Office, said a day after he returned from leading a delegation to the North.
Kim and Moon previously met in the border village of Panmunjom on May 26 and on April 27, when they signed a historic declaration pledging a common goal of "complete denuclearization" of the Korean Peninsula.
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Chung said Kim reaffirmed again this week his commitment to denuclearization and promised to work with the United States to that end, Yonhap reported.
The Korean Central News Agency, Pyongyang's official news service, reported that Kim reassured the delegation that he remains eager to "completely remove the danger of armed conflict and horror of war from the Korean Peninsula and turn it into the cradle of peace without nuclear weapons and free from nuclear threat," according to Yonhap.
U.S. officials have insisted that a peace declaration, which many see as a precursor to the North eventually calling for the removal of all U.S. troops from the Korean Peninsula, can't come before North Korea takes more concrete action toward abandoning its nuclear weapons.
Such steps may include providing an account of the components of its nuclear program, allowing outside inspections and giving up a certain number of its nuclear weapons during the early stages of the negotiations.
South Korean officials said an end-of-war declaration would be among the issues discussed in the meetings between the South Korean envoys and North Korean officials.
The Korean War ended with an armistice, leaving the peninsula technically still at war. Moon has made an end-of-war declaration an important premise of his peace agenda with North Korea.
While an end-of-war declaration wouldn't imply a legally binding peace treaty, experts say it could create political momentum that would make it easier for North Korea to steer the discussions toward a peace regime, diplomatic recognition, economic benefits and security concessions.
North Korea has accused the United States of making "unilateral and gangster-like" demands for denuclearization and of holding back on the end-of-war declaration. North Korea's Foreign Ministry on Tuesday published a long statement on its website saying an end-of-war declaration would be a necessary trust-building step that would "manifest the political will to establish the lasting and stable peace regime on the Korean Peninsula."