North Korea

Winter is going? Talks in Pyongyang signal significant thaw in ties between North and South Korea

PUBLISHED : Monday, 05 March, 2018, 9:04pm
UPDATED : Monday, 05 March, 2018, 11:33pm

Reclusive North Korean leader Kim Jong-un hosted a South Korean presidential delegation for dinner in Pyongyang on Monday, the latest surprising development in the thaw between the estranged neighbours aided by the Winter Olympics.

This is the first time the 34-year-old North Korean leader is known to have met any South Korean officials. He has not met any heads of state – including the presidents of historical allies like China and Russia – since he took over the totalitarian state after his father’s death in late 2011.

“Chairman Kim Jong-un is currently hosting a dinner for the special envoys,” Kim Eui-kyeom, a spokesman for South Korea’s Blue House, told reporters in Seoul.

North Korean officials made no immediate comments. The country’s state-run media reported that the delegation had arrived but had no more details.

South Korean president Moon Jae-in sent the 10-member delegation to Pyongyang to begin preparations for an inter-Korean summit, the first in 10 years. Kim Jong-un last month invited Moon to visit Pyongyang, with the invitation hand-delivered by his sister, Kim Yo-jong, when she visited South Korea last month for the opening ceremony of the PyeongChang Winter Olympics.

The South’s delegation is led by Chung Eui-yong, Moon’s national security adviser and someone who talks regularly to his American counterpart, H.R. McMaster.

“I will certainly deliver President Moon’s firm resolve to achieve a denuclearisation of the Korean Peninsula and genuine and permanent peace on the Korean Peninsula,” Chung told reporters before leaving Seoul on Monday afternoon. “I plan to hold in-depth discussions on various ways to continue talks between not only the South and the North, but also the North and the United States and the international community.”

Chung will travel to Washington after returning from Pyongyang to brief Trump administration officials on the meeting.

President Donald Trump said talks with North Korea will happen only “under the right conditions”. Moon has yet to accept Kim’s invitation to visit Pyongyang.

China said it was “a good thing” that the South Korean delegation had travelled to Pyongyang and “we look forward to a positive outcome of the meeting,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said.

“We hope all sides will bear in mind the larger picture of peninsular peace and stability … and make joint efforts not only for better ties between the North and South but for the early accomplishment of denuclearisation and lasting peace and stability on the peninsula,” Geng said, according to Associated Press.

Associated Press, Washington Post