June 19, 2018

Korea's Kim during Pyongyang trip

07 March 2018, 07:36 | Marta Robbins

Pic courtesy IANS

South Korean envoys in historic trip to North meet Kim Jong Un

North Korea said it would not need nuclear weapons if the "safety of its regime be guaranteed", according to a South Korean official.

Chung Eui-yong, Mr Moon's national security adviser, announced the summit at a briefing at which he had been expected only to report on his visit to Pyongyang on Monday, when he and other members of his delegation were hosted to dinner by Mr Kim.

If confirmed by Pyongyang, the offer would mark the first time under the current leadership the North had declared itself willing to discuss conditions under which it might consider giving up its nuclear arsenal - a move it has previously insisted was firmly off the negotiating table.

South Korea says it has agreed with North Korea to hold summit talks between the two countries' presidents in late April.

The North Korean leader broke the ice between North and South Korea by proposing talks to send a delegation to the Winter Olympics in a New Year's address.

Tensions and fears of conflict on the Korean Peninsula have soared, prompted by bellicose insults and barbed threats between Kim and U.S. President Donald Trump.

The talks would have the aim of resolving tensions surrounding Pyongyang's nuclear and missile programs and the U.S.'s threats of military action.

South Korean authorities have seized two vessels suspected of moving oil to the North.

Moon, who advocates dialogue with the North's nuclear-armed regime, said last week that Washington needs to "lower the threshold for talks" with Pyongyang.

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Last month, White House press secretary Sarah Sanders said in a statement, "the global community broadly agree that denuclearization must be the result of any dialogue with North Korea".

The meeting at the headquarters of the Workers' Party in Pyongyang was also attended by Kim's wife, sister and other North Korean officials.

The inclusion of Chung and Suh is clearly aimed at fielding a team experienced in handling both North Korea and the United States, said Duyeon Kim, a visiting senior research fellow at the Korean Peninsula Future Forum in Seoul.

During the Gridiron Club dinner on Saturday, Trump left politicians and journalists mystified after he proclaimed he had made a breakthrough call with the nuclear-power North Korea. The visit comes in the wake of the thaw brought about by North Korea's attendance at the PyeongChang Winter Olympics last month. Their two-day trip follows a visit by Kim's sister to South Korea last month, when she invited Moon to North Korea to meet her brother for what would be the first inter-Korean summit for 11 years. Kim Jong Un himself has been overseas, having attended school as a boy in Switzerland, and rumors have come up from time to time that he would visit either Beijing or Moscow.

North Korea's Foreign Ministry, for its part, accused the USA of refusing to recognize realities on the ground and putting forward unrealistic roadblocks to dialogue.

"Hearing the intention of President Moon Jae-in for a summit from the special envoy of the south side, he [Kim Jong-un] exchanged views and made a satisfactory agreement", the report said.

Details would be made public after the delegation returned later today, it said. Given that, North Korea's treatment of the South's envoys this time is unprecedented.

With the South Korean delegation in town, the most senior to visit North Korea in more than a decade, Kim seemed to cherish a role he rarely gets to take - that of a magnanimous head of state welcoming important foreign guests.

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