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North, South Korea Set Date for Historic Bilateral Summit


In this photo provided by South Korea Presidential Blue House via Yonhap News Agency, Kim Yong Chol, vice chairman of North Korea's ruling Workers' Party Central Committee, second from right, talks with South Korean delegation in Pyongyang, North Korea.

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and South Korean President Moon Jae-in will hold a bilateral summit on April 27.

The date for the historic meeting was set Thursday during a meeting between envoys from both Koreas in the border truce village of Panmunjonm, located in the Demilitarized Zone that has separated the two rivals since the 1950-53 civil war. Leaders of North and South Korea have met just twice since the split, the first in 2000 and the last one in 2007.

The agreement on the inter-Korean summit was reached just days after Kim Jong Un made a surprise visit to China, his first international trip since taking power in 2011 after the death of his father, Kim Jong Il. China said Kim confirmed his commitment to denuclearize the Korean peninsula and engage in talks with South Korea and the United States during his talks with President Xi Jingping.

North and South Korean envoys will meet again next Wednesday, April 4, to finalize the details for the Kim-Moon summit.

In Washington, State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert tweeted that a campaign "of maximum pressure has forced Kim Jong Un out of isolation."

She said the U.S. is "closely linked" with South Korea on the upcoming inter-Korean summit next month and added that pressure on North Korea will continue until it takes "real action towards denuclearization."

The summit comes after a year of increased tensions between Pyongyang and Seoul over the North's defiant testing of its nuclear weapons and ballistic missile programs, and an exchange of bellicose rhetoric between the North and U.S. President Donald Trump.

The Trump administration employed what it called a "maximum pressure strategy," and led international efforts to pressure Pyongyang to halt its nuclear program by imposing tough sanctions.

In the last few months, Kim made a dramatic shift from his nonnegotiable position that North Korea is now a nuclear weapons state. Instead, he suspended nuclear and missile tests, participated in the Pyeongchang Olympics in South Korea, and offered to engage in nuclear talks

Trump has accepted Kim Jong Un's offer for a one-one-one summit that is expected sometime in May.

(VOA's Peggy Chang contributed to this story.)