China's leader Xi looms large over North Korean anniversary

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A group of South Korean envoys travelled to Pyongyang on Wednesday to prepare for an upcoming inter-Korean summit and help re-start stalled talks between the United States and North Korea.

A South Korean official, briefing reporters Thursday on the talks, said the two countries have also agreed to set up a joint liaison office in the North before September 18.

Seoul also wants a trilateral summit among the countries, or a four-nation meeting that also includes Beijing, to declare a formal end to the 1950-53 Korean War.

China could be keen to demonstrate the strong ties it has with Pyongyang to ensure it remains a key player in efforts to dismantle the North's nuclear program.

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The spokesman said it was unclear whether the delegation would meet the North's leader this time around.

Trump earlier called off a scheduled North Korea trip by his top diplomat, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, citing what he called a lack of progress in the denuclearization process.

If Moon fails at his upcoming meeting with Kim, he may face a serious political dilemma: whether to continue to engage the North or join another US -led high-pressure campaign against Pyongyang. Washington is unlikely to provide sanctions relief, diplomatic recognition or the reduction of US forces in South Korea unless North Korea takes major steps on denuclearization.

South Korean Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-wha said recently that Seoul has yet to gain Washington's full endorsement to open a liaison office in a North Korean border town, which some say could violate existing sanctions.

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"If inter-Korean relations also stagnate, the diplomatic momentum could be lost", he said in an interview.

Trump expressed his honest wish that the upcoming inter-Korean summit would bear a good result to enhance ties between the two Koreas, implement the agreements reached at the June 12 DPRK-U.S. summit in Singapore, and help future dialogues.

"Now is a very important period in settling peace on the Korean Peninsula".

Impoverished and isolated North Korea has prioritised its nuclear weapons, achieving remarkable success in recent years.

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