North Korea’s leader Kim Jong-un has met with a high-level delegation from the South, saying he firmly wishes to “vigorously advance” bilateral ties between the two Koreas.
In a four-hour “openhearted talk” over dinner in Pyongyang on Monday, Kim “made an exchange of in-depth views on the issues for easing the acute military tensions on the Korean Peninsula and activating the versatile dialog, contact, cooperation and exchange,” the North’s official KCNA reported on Tuesday.
“He repeatedly clarified that it is our consistent and principled stand and his firm will to vigorously advance the North-South relations,” the KCNA said.
It said Kim also expressed his desire to “write a new history of national reunification.”
This is the first time South Korean officials have met with the young North Korean leader in person since he took power in 2011.
The visit by the 10-member delegation, which is being led by the South Korean president’s national security director, Chung Eui-yong, is also the first high-level visit by South Korean officials to the North in about a decade.
Chung’s delegation includes intelligence chief Suh Hoon and Vice Unification Minister Chun Hae-sung.
The South Korean presidential Blue House said the high-profile visit is meant to reciprocate the Olympic trip by Kim’s sister, Kim Yo-jong, who became the first member of the North’s ruling family to visit the South since the end of the 1950-53 Korean War.
Chung’s delegation will return to South Korea and then fly to the United States to brief American officials about the two-day trip to North Korea.
The US has long included itself in the Korean dispute. It has heavy military presence in the region and uses North Korea’s weapons programs as a pretext to constantly threaten Pyongyang with military action.
That military posture has concerned North Korea, which says it needs to advance its weapons program to protect itself against potential US military action.
The US has also imposed sanctions on Pyongyang, including most recently what it called “the toughest ever.”
Recently, US President Donald Trump said that Washington would be willing to enter into talks with Pyongyang “under the right conditions.”
Washington has told the impoverished country that for negotiations to begin it must denuclearize its arsenal.
But the North-South rapprochement has sidelined the US, and there has been no indication that Pyongyang may be willing to negotiate with Washington now.