Published On: Mon, Mar 5th, 2018

North Korea’s Kim Jong-un meets South Korean envoys

Seoul: North Korean leader Kim Jong-un hosted a welcome dinner for South Korean President Moon Jae-in’s special envoys on Monday, the first time officials from Seoul met the reclusive leader since he took office in 2011.

The South Korean delegation consisted of five special envoys

“Chairman Kim Jong-un is currently hosting a dinner for the special envoys,” Seoul’s presidential office Cheong Wa Dae spokesman Kim Eui-kyeom told a press briefing.

Kim’s meeting with the South Korean envoys apparently reflected his willingness to improve his country’s ties with the South, Yonhap news agency reported.

The delegation is in Pyongyang for rare talks partly aimed at restarting dialogue between the North and the US.

Relations between the Koreas have warmed following the Winter Olympics.

Moon and his aides have repeatedly highlighted the importance of talks between the US and North Korea for the denuclearisation of the Korean Peninsula and have also noted that the trip by Moon’s special envoys was partly aimed at arranging such dialogue.

“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 US and the international community,” Chung Eui-yong, Moon’s chief envoy and head of the presidential National Security Office, said shortly before his departure for Pyongyang.

The South Korean envoys arrived in Pyongyang at 2:50 pm, about one hour after their departure from Seoul Air Base, according to the Cheong Wa Dae spokesman.

The North’s state media earlier confirmed their arrival.

“The delegation of South Korean President’s special envoys, including National Security Office Chief Chung Eui-yong, arrived in Pyongyang on March 5,” the North’s official Korean Central News Agency said in a short dispatch from the North Korean capital.

In a separate report, the North’s Korean Central Broadcasting Station said the South Koreans were welcomed by Ri Son-gwon, chief of a North Korean agency in charge of inter-Korean affairs.

Ri visited South Korea as part of a high-delegation to the opening ceremony of the PyeongChang Winter Olympic Games held from February 9-25.

The South Korean delegation consisted of five special envoys, including Suh Hoon, chief of the country’s spy agency National Intelligence Service, and five support staff. They are set to return home on Tuesday.

Last week, US President Donald Trump said that Washington would be prepared to meet Pyongyang’s officials, but reiterated that North Korea would first have to “denuke”.

However, North Korea — which had said it wanted to talk to the US — said it was “preposterous” for the US to insist on preconditions.

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