The inter-Korea summit next month will test South Korean President Moon Jae-in's negotiation skills, facing him with the tough job of narrowing the gaps on denuclearization between North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and U.S. President Donald Trump ahead of their own summit in May, experts said.
South Korean presidential spokesman Kim Eui-kyeom told reporters Thursday: "I expect that the upcoming South-North summit and the US summit will leave a foundation for a permanent denuclearization and a peace regime on the Korean peninsula".
Analysts say both sides had reason to hold the meeting - Pyongyang to secure Beijing's backing and support, and China to protect its interests in what it considers its backyard.
South Korean government officials have held high-level talks with their North Korean counterparts and set a date of 27 April for the summit.
The agreement on the date for the upcoming meeting comes after Kim traveled to China and met with its leader Xi Jinping, who has always been the hermit kingdom's biggest ally but has recently agreed to stricter sanctions against it.
On a subsequent visit to the United States, Moon's envoys brokered a potential meeting between Kim and Trump, who said he would meet the North Korean leader "by May".
Separately, Chinese State Councilor Yang Jiechi met South Korean National Security Adviser Chung Eui-yong on Thursday to discuss the recent North Korean-Chinese summit in Beijing.
President Trump got word of the secret meeting between North Korea and China a few hours before it was made public.
The North's delegation is led by Ri Son Gwon, chairman of an agency that deals with inter-Korean affairs.
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Seoul's Unification Minister Cho Myoung-gyon said officials from both Koreas exchanged opinions on the agendas of the summit but Cho didn't provide a clear answer on whether Thursday's discussions included the nuclear issue.
The announcement was made after a high-level meeting Thursday between the countries at the border village of Panmunjom.
In his talks with Xi, Kim may have discussed economic cooperation or requested a softening of the enforcement of sanctions over the North's nuclear weapons and missiles.
It also mentioned the resumption of inter-Korean talks as a precondition for paving the way for peaceful coexistence of the two Koreas on the peninsula, calling for both Washington and Moscow to take mutually balanced measures to ease tensions in the region, the documents said.
Trump on Wednesday tweeted his optimism: "Now there is a good chance that Kim Jong Un will do what is right for his people and for humanity". North Korea though has claimed that Kim's grandfather Kim Il Sung had gone to Seoul several times during the conflict in the volatile peninsula.
Park Won gon, a professor of worldwide relations at Handong Global University in Pohang, said that Moon should narrow the gaps between Kim and Trump in the summit by talking seriously about denuclearization and ways to guarantee the North Korean regime's security.
Kim will even meet with President Donald Trump, with whom he's exchanged fiery rhetoric. The Chinese envoy is also scheduled to meet President Moon on Friday. The North's official media omitted Kim's reported comments opening dialogue with the United States that were carried in Chinese state media.
It's unclear whether the leaders' meetings will lead to any meaningful breakthrough.
It comes after Kim's visit to China earlier this week, his first trip outside of North Korea since taking power seven years ago. It started at 10am local time, and was over by early afternoon, surprising those who had anticipated talks going on until late in the evening, as is often the case with inter-Korean dialogue.