North Korea and South Korea have agreed to hold a summit of their leaders in April, as South Korean President Moon Jae-in's top security adviser completed his Pyongyang trip.
North Korean leader Kim Jong-un had expressed his desire to hold talks with the US about the denuclearization issue if there is security guarantee in the region. The North had been reiterating that its nuclear program is in self-defence to the ‘provocative’ US and South Korea joint military drills.
The inter-Korean summit between Moon and Kim will be held at the joint security area of Panmunjom. The announcement, which was not widely expected, followed Chung's two-day trip to Pyongyang as Moon's special envoy, Yonhap news agency reported.
While in Pyongyang, Chung and four other South Korean envoys held an unprecedented meeting with the North Korean leader.
"The South and the North have agreed to set up a hotline between their leaders to allow close consultations and a reduction of military tension, while also agreeing to hold the first phone conversation before the third South-North summit," Chung said.
North Korea also restated its commitment to rid itself of nuclear weapons, according to Chung.
"Chairman Kim said the denuclearisation issue may be discussed as an agenda for the North-US dialogue," he told reporters.
"What we must especially pay attention to is the fact that (he) has clearly stated that the denuclearization of the Korean peninsula was an instruction of his predecessor and that there has been no change to such an instruction."
Pyongyang had expressed their willingness to talk, but the US had remained rather skeptical of the North's intentions in improving its ties with the South, saying US-North Korea dialogue would only be held if North talks about denuclearization.
The North Korean leader assumed power after his father, Jong-il, died in late 2011.
Chung said the North also promised to suspend all military provocations, including nuclear tests and ballistic missile launches, as long the US-North Korea talks progress.
"In addition, the North promised not to use not only nuclear weapons but also conventional weapons against the South," he added.
North Korea has staged 10 ballistic missile launches since Moon took office in May 2017. It also conducted its sixth and most powerful nuclear test so far in September.
The recent rapprochement between the two Koreas followed the resumption of inter-Korean dialogue to discuss the North's participation in the Winter Olympic Games. The talks were the first of their kind in more than two years.
Meanwhile, despite the peace engagement, US has announced new, unspecified sanctions against Pyongyang for allegedly ‘using a chemical weapon to assassinate’ Kim Jong-Nam, the half-brother of North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un, in February 2017.
These sanctions, in addition to the numerous existing sanctions, come after the investigation into the assassination of Kim Jong-Nam, which occurred on February 13, 2017, at the airport in the Malaysian capital Kuala Lumpur, was concluded on February 22, Efe news reported on Tuesday.
Although announced on Tuesday, the sanctions went into effect since Monday, according to the US State Department.
(with inputs from IANS)