North Korean soldier defects to South Korea amid peace efforts

South Korean and US soldiers stand guard at the truce village of Panmunjom July 2017.   Jung Yeon-Je  Reuters

U.S. President Donald Trump reaffirmed Friday in a meeting with South Korean President Moon Jae-in that he wants a second summit with North Korea's leader, the White House said.

Freight services ran between the two Koreas from December 2007 until November 2008 to support factories in a joint economic zone at Kaesong in North Korea.

Before the South Korean train headed for the North on Friday, a farewell ceremony was held at Dorasan Station, just south of the border in Paju, Gyeonggi. "The two leaders agreed Chairman Kim Jong Un's visit to Seoul would provide additional momentum to their joint efforts to establish peace on the Korean Peninsula", Moon's chief press secretary Yoon Young-chan said.

Prospects for a second summit to overcome a current logjam in negotiations will likely depend on whether either the USA or DPRK can show flexibility with regards to offering gestures surrounding sanctions relief or steps towards denuclearization.

Trump added that at some point he would invite the North Korean ruler to the United States.

The military said no unusual North Korean activity was reported on Saturday.

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South Korea says the military agreement, which also included creating buffer zones along the Koreas' land and sea boundaries and a no-fly zone above the border, is an important trust-building step that would help stabilize peace and advance reconciliation between the rivals.

Twenty-eight South Korean officials including people from the unification, and land, infrastructure and transport ministries will inspect the 400-kilometer section from Gaeseong to Sinuiju through December 5. "Related agencies plan to investigate him regarding the details of how he came to the South". He also said his administration is ready to lift the sanctions on North Korea, but asserted that Pyongyang has to be "responsive" to Washington. Most North Koreans choose to flee across China, which shares a 100-kilometer land border with North Korea.

During the surveys, a North Korean train engine will pull six South Korean cars - including passenger and sleeping cars, a power-generator vehicle and a fuel tanker - to test operability.

While the United States allowed for the exemption, Washington is unlikely to support the further delivery of benefits to North Korea as far as plans for an inter-Korean rail connection are concerned.

After Trump and Kim agreed to work towards the denuclearization of the Korean peninsula in the first summit, progress has been largely symbolic owing to the absence of a clear route map for disarmament.

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