UPDATE : 2019.4.21 SUN 09:31
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Leaders of two Koreas set for historic summit

South Korean President Moon Jae-in and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un were set to hold a summit Friday that may mark the start of an often tried but failed attempt to rid the communist North of its nuclear ambitions.

They are scheduled to meet at 9:30 a.m. (KST) when Kim crosses the Military Demarcation Line to the South Korean side of the border village of Panmunjom, inside the heavily fortified Demilitarized Zone, according to the presidential office Cheong Wa Dae.

Kim left Pyongyang early Friday, the North's official Korean Central News Agency reported.

"Kim Jong-un will open-heartedly discuss with Moon Jae In all the issues arising in improving inter-Korean relations and achieving peace, prosperity and reunification of the Korean peninsula," it said.

Moon was set to head for Panmunjom at around 8 a.m., according to a Cheong Wa Dae official.

The two leaders will jointly inspect a South Korean honor guard as part of an official ceremony to welcome the North Korean leader. The official talks will begin at 10:30 a.m.

The main agenda of their marathon talks will be the North's denuclearization, a permanent peace of the peninsula and inter-Korean cooperation.

It is the third inter-Korean summit, but the first to be held in South Korea, making Kim the first North Korean leader to step on South Korean soil since the end of the 1950-53 Korean War. The two Koreas technically remain at war as the Korean War ended with an armistice, not a peace treaty. The two previous inter-Korean summits, in 2000 and 2007, were both held in Pyongyang.

The latest inter-Korean summit follows recent rapprochement between the two Koreas, largely created by the North's participation in the recently concluded Winter Olympic and Paralympic Games in South Korea's PyeongChang.

Tensions between the Koreas had peaked prior to the North's participation in the winter sporting event as the North staged nearly a dozen missile launches in less than seven months after Moon's inauguration in May 2017, along with its sixth nuclear test in September.

Amid a flurry of inter-Korean dialogue and exchanges during the Winter Games, Kim sent his younger sister Yo-jong as a special envoy to the South Korean president, inviting Moon to Pyongyang for a third inter-Korean summit.

Moon sent his top security adviser Chung Eui-yong as his special envoy to Pyongyang where the chief of the presidential National Security Office held an unprecedented meeting with who was then known only as a reclusive leader of the world's most clandestine regime.

In his meeting with the South Korean official, which may have also marked his international debut, the North Korean leader said his country was willing to denuclearize in exchange for a security guarantee.

Moon has said his meeting with Kim will mainly focus on ways to completely and verifiably denuclearize the Korean Peninsula in a peaceful manner.

He says they may also discuss formally ending the Korean War with a peace treaty, though such efforts would require three-way discussions involving the two Koreas and the United States.

The North Korean leader earlier offered to hold a separate summit with U.S. President Donald Trump following his meeting with Moon. Trump has agreed to meet with Kim for what will be the first-ever U.S.-North Korea summit, which he says will likely take place in May or early June.

The Moon-Kim meeting will end later in the day following a welcome dinner to be hosted by the South Korean leader, according to Cheong Wa Dae.

Hwi Won  edt@koreapost.com

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