Two Koreas, UN Command hold first talks on disarming border

Unification Minister Cho Myoung-gyon speaks to reporters before leaving for high-level talks with North Korea at the truce village of Panmunjom on Oct. 15 2018

But now, with three inter-Korean summits behind him and an upcoming visit by Kim Jong Un to Seoul potentially later this year, Moon is making South Korea's interest in sanctions relief apparent.

In their third summit this year, Moon and Kim committed to reviving economic cooperation when possible, voicing optimism that global sanctions could end and allow such activity, and holding a groundbreaking ceremony by the end of the year on an ambitious project to connect their roads and railways. They are also expected to negotiate forming combined teams for the 2020 Tokyo Summer Olympics and other worldwide events.

The talks were led by the South's Unification Minister Cho Myoung-gyon and Ri Son Gwon, chairman of the North's committee for peaceful reunification that handles cross-border affairs.

Many outsiders believe that US -led efforts to rid North Korea of its nuclear-tipped missiles are lagging significantly behind the Koreas' efforts to move past decades of bitter rivalry.

Cho says the ministry will work harder in the future to assure that North Korea-born defectors can report on North Korea issues without restrictions.

At a summit with US President Donald Trump in Singapore Kim declared his backing for denuclearisation of the peninsula, but no details were agreed and Washington and Pyongyang have subsequently sparred over what that means and how it will be achieved.

The two Koreas agreed on Monday to begin reconnecting rail and road links despite United States concerns that the rapid North-South thaw could undermine efforts to press North Korea to give up its nuclear weapons.

Moon agreed with the need to maintain pressure on the North until it denuclearizes, but said such pressure could or should be eased to encourage the impoverished North.

Moon also said the North would permanently abolish key missile facilities in the presence of foreign experts.

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The leaders of the two Koreas also endorsed a military pact, which includes the halting of military exercises, a no-fly zone near their border and the gradual removal of landmines and guard posts within the Demilitarised Zone (DMZ).

"Most of the operations will actually be executed by the two Koreas, but ensuring UNC support matters, as it has US elements and also manages the Military Armistice Commission", a South Korean military source said on condition of anonymity.

Kang's remarks amounted to a rare confirmation of discord between Seoul and Washington, though the allies have said they remain in lockstep on North Korea.

In August, a joint inspection plan for the rail project was scrapped after the United Nations Command (UNC), which overlaps with USA forces in the South and oversees affairs in the DMZ, refused passage for a test train, military sources said.

Mr Cho, asked before the meeting if the UNC had given approval for a study of transport links over the DMZ, said: "We're in close consultation with relevant countries".

South Korea's Defense Ministry said the talks at the Panmunjom border village mark the first meeting between the Koreas and the U.N. Command to discuss ways to demilitarize the village's Joint Security Area.

The decision to exclude the reporter from the conservative Chosun Ilbo on Monday drew an angry reaction from other South Korean journalists.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo met Kim last week and came away saying that the leaders of North Korea and the United States both believed they could make "substantive progress" at a second summit meeting.

Battulga also congratulated Kim on the 70th anniversary of diplomatic relations between Pyongyang and Ulaanbaatar and expressed his hope to receive the North Korean leader in Mongolia.

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