Drawing from the momentum and goodwill brought by the two Koreas forging temporary peace and coming together for the recently-concluded Winter Olympics held last month, a South Korean delegation held a first-ever meeting with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un on Monday. One of the main goals of the South Korean delegation for the meeting is to encourage Pyongyang and Washington to talk.
Both North Korea and the U.S. have expressed willingness to hold talks, but the parties can not seem to agree on some crucial things. The U.S. has been consistent in declaring that any such potential talks should be anchored on North Korea’s denuclearization. Pyongyang, however, has rejected such suggestions.
North Korea has continued to brag about developing nuclear-tipped missiles capable of reaching the United States. It has maintained that it does not have any plans on giving up their nuclear ambitions and arms expansion. Pyongyang has always said that their nuclear arms capabilities serve as their essential deterrent against U.S. hostility.
Kim Eui-kyeom, a spokesman for South Korea’s presidential office, said that the 10-member South Korean delegation, led by National Security Office head Chung Eui-yong, was greeted by North Korean officials after landing in Pyongyang. The welcoming delegation included Ri Son Gwon, chairman of the Committee for the Peaceful Reunification of the Country, and Kim Yong Chol, who heads the United Front Department, which is the office mainly responsible for handling inter-Korean affairs. Both officials also visited South Korea during the Olympics.
Seoul’s delegation happened to be the first set of South Korean officials to meet Kim since the latter inherited the leadership from his father Kim Jon II in 2011.
The South Korean delegation was also invited to join Kim for dinner.
Unification Ministry spokesman Balik Tae-hyun said that South Korea hopes that the visit will create a “positive atmosphere.”
Chung and National Intelligence Service chief Suh Hoon are set to fly to Washington later in the week to brief American officials on their discussions in the North.
The U.S. State Department stressed that there has been no change in the official position of the country. A spokeswoman for the department said: “We are willing to engage North Korea to emphasize our position that the complete and verifiable denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula is non-negotiable.”
North Korea has not carried out any weapons test since late November when it then tested its largest intercontinental ballistic missile.