Officials of the two Koreas on Tuesday scheduled an unprecedented July 25 summit between South Korean President Kim Young-sam and North Korean President Kim Il-sung.
The summit is to be in Pyongyang, the North Korean capital, South Korean officials said. It would represent the first North-South presidential meeting since the division of the Korean peninsula at the end of World War II.Further details still had to be resolved during talks at the truce village of Panmunjom. As the North Korean delegation left the Peace House, where Tuesday's meeting took place, South Korean officials said they were pressing for a commitment to schedule a reciprocal summit meeting later this summer in Seoul.
No agreement was reached on that point during three hours of talks Tuesday morning, said the officials.
The progress Tuesday comes after decades of failed talks, North Korean terrorism and shooting incidents along the 151-mile demilitarized zone. More recently, lower-level talks between the two Koreas collapsed on March 19 when a North Korean negotiator threatened to turn Seoul into "a sea of fire" if the United Nations imposed economic sanctions on the North.
In combination with negotiations between North Korea and the United States, set to begin in Geneva on July 8, the North-South summit holds the key toward resolving the showdown between the United Nations and North Korea over Pyongyang's nuclear weapons program. It also could revive a 1991 inter-Korean agreement that lays the groundwork for eventual reunification. Several officials in Seoul predicted that this round of summit preparations would succeed because the initiative came from Kim Il-sung, who told former President Jimmy Carter that he would agree to a summit without preconditions.
Despite the upsurge in optimism, there was no relaxation in the military standoff along the DMZ. U.S. and South Korean defense officials said it was unlikely that the two massive armies would shift their postures immediately.
"We haven't seen any less movement or activity, or any more movement or activity since Carter's visit" to Pyongyang, one senior U.S. officer said of the North Korean army.
The North has a million-man army and a formidable battery of ballistic missiles and long-range artillery. Much of that strength is massed at the border, just 30 miles from Seoul. South Korea's armed forces number 650,000, bolstered by 36,000 U.S. troops.