South Korean President Moon Jae-in is set to embark on a trip to North Korea this week for his third and possibly most crucial meeting with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un.
Moon will head for Pyongyang on Tuesday, using a direct flight across the heavily-fortified inter-Korean border.
The inter-Korean summit will mark the third of its kind since Moon took office in May 2017.
Moon and Kim held their historic first meeting in the border village of Panmunjom on April 27, followed by their second meeting there on May 26.
The first Moon-Kim summit led to the recent rapprochement between the two Koreas while also enabling the historic summit between Kim and U.S. President Donald Trump, held in Singapore on June 12.
The third Moon-Kim summit, however, may be more crucial in ridding North Korea of its nuclear ambition as it follows a dispute in denuclearization talks between the U.S. and North Korea.
Trump called off a scheduled North Korea visit by his Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo, last month, citing a lack of progress in the North's denuclearization process.
In addition, Washington continues to call for maximum sanctions and pressure on the North until the communist state completely denuclearizes.
Pyongyang, on the other hand, is said to be demanding early rewards for denuclearization measures it has taken so far.
In a meeting with Moon's special envoy to Pyongyang earlier this month, the North Korean leader called for a quid pro quo, calling the denuclearization steps his country has taken irreversible.
The North Korean leader indicated that early rewards for his country may include a formal declaration of the end of the Korean War, which he and Moon have agreed to realize before the year's end but clearly requires Washington's blessing.
The two Koreas technically remain at war as the 1950-53 war ended with an armistice, also signed by the United States and China.
Moon has said the main objectives of his North Korea trip include securing a breakthrough in U.S.-North Korea dialogue.
"One is to continue developing the inter-Korean relations, and the other is to promote North Korea-U.S. dialogue aimed at denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula," Moon said of his objectives while meeting with special advisers last week.
Moon also stressed the need for a second U.S.-North Korea summit.
"Now, if we are to move up to a higher level, where we will dismantle the nuclear (arsenal) currently possessed by North Korea, we once again need bold ideas and decisions by the two leaders of North Korea and the United States," he said earlier.
The South Korean president will return home on Thursday following his three-day trip to the North.
He is scheduled to visit the U.S. next week for talks with his U.S. counterpart on the sidelines of the U.N. General Assembly. (yonhap)