UPDATE : 2018.11.18 SUN 14:50
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Koreas to hold high-level talks to prepare for summit

South Korea and North Korea are set to hold high-level talks Thursday to discuss details about preparations for an inter-Korean summit slated for late April.

Officials from both sides will meet at 10:00 a.m. at the Tongilgak building on the northern side of the border truce village Panmunjom to discuss the date and agenda for the summit, according to Seoul's unification ministry.

"We will closely consult with the North to make the summit a success," Unification Minister Cho Myoung-gyon, the South's chief delegate, told reporters before leaving for Panmunjom.

The minister said that the South is anticipating that the date for the summit could be set during Thursday's talks.

This photo, taken March 29, 2018, shows Unification Minister Cho Myoung-gyon (C), South Korea's chief delegate for the two Koreas' high-level talks, speaking to reporters before leaving for North Korea for talks. (Yonhap)

The meeting comes as South Korean President Moon Jae-in and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un plan to hold a summit in April at Panmunjom after more than a year of tensions sparked by the North's nuclear and missile programs.

Kim made a surprise visit to China earlier this week ahead of the planned summits with Moon and U.S. President Donald Trump. The North's ruler met with Chinese President Xi Jinping Tuesday during their first summit.

His trip to Beijing was seen aimed at securing more bargaining chips ahead of his meeting with Trump, which will take place by May.

The upcoming inter-Korean summit will likely serve as a critical venue for discussions to resolve the North's nuclear issue.

The North's leader expressed his commitment to giving up nuclear weapons during his meeting with Xi, adding that its denuclearization hinges on Seoul and Washington taking "progressive and synchronous measures," according to China's Xinhua News Agency.

"The issue of (North Korea's) denuclearization has been the most important agenda item. ... That's the issue that we will focus on for discussion," the minister added.

Trump agreed to meet with Kim after South Korean envoys who met with the North's leader in early March relayed Kim's expression of his commitment to denuclearization.

North Korea's advancement of its nuclear and missile programs heightened tensions on the Korean Peninsula last year. Pyongyang has been slapped with tough sanctions over its provocations.

The North conducted its sixth and most powerful nuclear test in September last year. It also launched three intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) last year, which analysts say are capable of reaching the U.S. mainland.

Kim and Trump exchanged personal insults and bellicose rhetoric, raising fears about war on the divided peninsula.

But the North extended a rare olive branch to Seoul in January, as Kim expressed his willingness to send athletes to the PyeongChang Winter Olympics held in the South last month.

The U.S. is carrying out its campaign for "maximum pressure" to make the North abandon its nuclear arsenal and bring it to the negotiation table.

Washington has vowed to keep up its pressure campaign until the repressive regime takes sincere steps toward denuclearization.

Hwi Won  edt@koreapost.com

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