Kim in landmark talks with visiting SKorean envoys

- BBC, SEOUL

Mar 6, 2018-

North Korean leader Kim Jong-un is hosting a dinner for two South Korean delegates, the first time officials from Seoul have met the young leader since he took office in 2011.

South Korea’s Yonhap news agency reported the dinner, quoting a South Korean presidential spokesman.

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 Olympics.

In an unprecedented move the delegation includes two ministerial-level envoys - intelligence chief Suh Hoon and National Security adviser Chung Eui-yong.

North Korean state radio said the delegation was met by Ri Son-gwon, North Korea’s reunification chief, who led talks in the weeks before the Winter Olympics.

During the two-day visit, the South Korean group will focus on establishing conditions for talks aimed at getting rid of the North’s nuclear weapons as well as dialogue between the US and Pyongyang. Chung had earlier told a press briefing he would deliver President Moon Jae-in’s “resolution to maintain the dialogue and improvement in relations between the South and the North... [and] to denuclearize the Korean peninsula”. “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,” he added.

US President Donald Trump said on Saturday that the US would be prepared to meet North Korea, but reiterated that Pyongyang would first have to “denuke”.

However, North Korea - which has said it wants to talk to the US - said it was “preposterous” for the US to insist on preconditions. “The US attitude shown after we clarified our intention for dialogue compels us to only think that the US is not interested in resuming... dialogue,” said the foreign ministry in a statement reported by state media.

It’s remains unclear who would represent the US in any such meeting.

The top US diplomat on North Korea Joseph Yun announced his decision to retire earlier last week, a departure which could hamper the Trump administration. Analysts believe that Mr Yun was very much in favour of compromise and diplomacy with North Korea.

Joseph Yun leaves his post as a US special representative for North Korea policy without a successor

The relationship between the US and North Korea were particularly tense before the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, with both countries repeatedly threatening each other with total destruction.

Published: 06-03-2018 09:37

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