South Korea said its envoys met with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in Pyongyang on Wednesday to prepare for a third inter-Korean summit later this month, with hopes of putting momentum back into stalled talks between the North and the United States on denuclearization.
Kim and US President Donald Trump reached a broad but unspecific agreement on denuclearization at a Singapore summit in June, but those talks have stalled since Trump canceled Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s trip to North Korea last month.
South Korean President Moon Jae-in’s special envoys were led by the national security chief at the presidential Blue House, Chung Eui-yong, and the delegation included director of the National Intelligence Service, Suh Hoon.
The envoys held talks with Kim and delivered Moon’s letter, and had dinner with unspecified North Korean officials, according to Blue House spokesman Kim Eui-kyeom.
“The envoys would return after the dinner,” the spokesman said in a statement, adding further details will be announced on Thursday.
The 11-member delegation was greeted in Pyongyang by Ri Son Gwon, chairman of a North Korean committee in charge of cross-border affairs, who has steered high-level inter-Korean talks, according to Moon’s press secretary Yoon Young-chan.
They held a 20-minute meeting with Ri and Kim Yong Chol, who played a key role with Pompeo in arranging the Singapore summit, Yoon said without elaborating.
The United States and North Korea are at odds over whether denuclearization or a step towards the normalization of bilateral relations by declaring the end of the 1950-53 Korean War should come first.
The war was ended by an armistice, not a peace treaty, meaning US-led United Nations forces, including South Korea, are technically still at war with the North.
Chung said on Tuesday he wanted to discuss with Pyongyang officials ways to achieve the complete denuclearization of the Korean peninsula.
Seoul would also continue to push for a joint declaration with the United States of an end to the Korean war this year, Chung said.
The North’s Kim made his first public appearance in 16 days to pay respects at the funeral of Ju Kyu Chang, North Korean state media KCNA reported on Wednesday.
Ju was a leading contributor to North Korea’s successful development of its nuclear weapons, ballistic missiles and space program, according to the Stimson Centre’s 38 North, a website that specializes in analysis of North Korea.
The United States wants North Korea to abandon its nuclear weapons without condition.
North Korea has said in previous, failed talks years ago that it could consider giving up its nuclear arsenal if the United States provided security guarantees by removing its troops from South Korea and withdrew its so-called nuclear umbrella of deterrence from South Korea and Japan.
North Korea is preparing to celebrate the 70th anniversary of the regime’s founding on Sunday.