North Korean leader Kim Jong Un spent more than four hours with South Korean President Moon Jae-in’s special envoys late Monday in his first meeting with officials from south of the border since he took power in late 2011.
The envoys delivered Moon’s intention to hold a summit with Kim, and the two Koreas made a “satisfactory agreement” at the meeting that took place in a “compatriotic and sincere atmosphere,” North Korea’s state-run Korean Central News Agency said. Kim ordered his officials to quickly take steps for the agreement he reached with the envoys, KCNA added, without providing further details.
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 heads of South Korea’s security and intelligence services were in the North Korean capital to persuade Kim to start talks with the U.S. on denuclearization and stave off a potential conflict over his nuclear program. They will return to Seoul later Tuesday.
A Blue House official told reporters in Seoul there were some achievements from the meeting that were “not disappointing” but did not elaborate on what they were.
The South Korean envoys are due to travel to Washington later this week to discuss the results of their discussions with the Trump administration. 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. Moon then avoided an immediate answer, suggesting that the two Koreas make it happen by creating the right circumstances.
The Winter Olympics — including the Paralympics that run March 9-18 — have provided a window to rebuild diplomatic ties after an escalating series of North Korean weapons tests last year prompted United Nations sanctions and threats of military action by U.S. President Donald Trump. While both the U.S. and North Korea say they’re open to talks, it’s unclear how much either side is willing to concede.
The meeting “shows Kim Jong Un wants to achieve his inter-Korean objectives laid out in his New Year’s Day address,” said Duyeon Kim, visiting senior research fellow at the Korean Peninsula Future Forum in Seoul. “It places much importance on the envoys’ visit while continuing his peace offensive tactics toward the South and portraying his country as normal, modern, and peace-loving.”
Japanese Foreign Minister Taro Kono told reporters in Tokyo that it’s important for efforts to be made in the talks toward denuclearization, Kyodo News reported.
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang told reporters in a regular briefing in Beijing earlier Monday that China hopes the interaction between the two Koreas could bring about talks between North Korea and U.S. He added that China stands ready to play a positive role to realize denuclearization and achieve lasting peace on the peninsula.
Trump and Moon spoke about the situation in a 30-minute phone call last week. The White House said the leaders “noted their firm position that any dialogue with North Korea must be conducted with the explicit and unwavering goal of complete, verifiable and irreversible denuclearization.”
Kim’s government says nuclear weapons are necessary to deter any U.S.-led military action. A North Korean Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesperson told the official Korean Central News Agency on Saturday that the country wouldn’t accept U.S. preconditions.
“We have intention to resolve issues in a diplomatic and peaceful way through dialogue and negotiation, but we will neither beg for dialogue nor evade the military option claimed by the U.S.,” the spokesperson said.