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North Korea and South Korea to talk next week

North Korea and South Korea are to meet next week for talks at the border truce village of Panmunjom.

Seoul had proposed the talks last Thursday, using a border communication channel, according to Yonhap news agency.

It was not until early on Saturday, however, that Kim Jong Un’s government sent a message to its southern neighbour accepting the invitation.

The two sides will each send a three-member delegation to the 29 March meeting.

Head of North Korean delegation Jon Jong Su talks with his South Korean counterpart Chun Hae-sung during their meeting at the truce village of Panmunjom in the demilitarised zone separating the two Koreas,. Pic: Yonhap/Reuters
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The two sides held talks about various issues earlier this year

Panmunjom was chosen as the one place where officials from both sides could meet after the Korean War ended in a truce in 1953.

Neither side has jurisdiction. Instead, the area is administered by the United Nations Command.

The main purpose of next week’s talks will be to prepare for an inter-Korean summit set for late April.

If that summit goes ahead, it would be only the third in recent history, the others being in 2007 and 2000.

Representatives of the two countries have met a number of times this year, including in February as South Korea hosted the Winter Olympics.

Kim Yo Jong, Kim Jong Un’s sister, handed South Korea’s President Moon Jae-in a personal letter from the North Korean leader.

South Korean President Moon Jae-in shakes hands with Kim Yo Jong, the sister of North Korea's leader Kim Jong Un
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South Korean President Moon Jae-in shakes hands with Kim Yo Jong, sister of Kim Jong Un

At the time, the communist regime described the meeting as “warm” but “frank and candid”.

When the Korean War ended, the two sides only signed truce, not a peace treaty, meaning they are technically still at war.

Last year, North Korea tested its most powerful nuclear weapon so far, also testing three intercontinental ballistic missiles theoretically capable of striking the US mainland.

The South's envoy led a team on a two-day visit to the North Korean capital
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The South’s envoy led a team on a two-day visit to the North Korean capital in March

A few weeks ago, US President Donald Trump announced he would also meet the North Korean leader, a first for a serving US president.

Mr Trump agreed to meet North Korea’s dictator to discuss denuclearisation, and claimed a deal with the isolated state could be a “very good for one for the world”.

He was criticised, however, for not getting any concessions from North Korea before the meeting, which came after South Korea’s national security adviser, Chung Eui Yong, informed the White House of Mr Kim’s “commitment to denuclearisation” and desire to speak with the US leader.

That meeting is expected to happen before the end of May, possibly in Sweden.

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