North Korea’s Kim Jong-un meets South Korea envoys in Pyongyang

Kim hosts dinner with South Korean president’s special envoys, according to South Korean media.

North Korean leader Kim Jong-un has met high-ranking South Korean officials, South Korean news agency Yonhap said.

According to the South Korean presidential office, Kim hosted a dinner with South Korean President Moon Jae-in‘s special envoys on Monday, Yonhap reported.

It is believed to be the first time the North Korean leader has met South Korean officials since he took office in 2011.

The meeting comes as a delegation of South Korean officials travelled to North Korea on Monday to discuss bilateral relations between the two, rival neighbours and potential dialogue between Washington and Pyongyang administrations.

According to US media, the South Korean envoys are also expected to put forward the president’s wishes for nuclear disarmament in the Korean Peninsula, as well as encouraging peaceful dialogue between both nations in the hope of restoring diplomatic ties.

After the two-day visit to North Korea, the delegation will travel to the US to brief officials there on their discussions in Pyongyang.

North Korea staged its most powerful nuclear test last year [KCNA/Reuters]
North Korea staged its most powerful nuclear test last year [KCNA/Reuters]

The delegation’s visit is the latest chapter in a remarkable detente achieved through the recently concluded Winter Olympics, where North Korean athletes were accorded warm welcome.

The trip is in response to an invitation offered by North Korean leader Kim Jong-un’s sister for South Korean President Moon Jae-in to visit Pyongyang.

Senior North Korean officials, led by Kim’s sister, visited South Korea during last month’s Winter Olympics.

Tensions high

The isolated, impoverished North staged its most powerful nuclear test and test-fired multiple missiles last year, including some capable of hitting the US mainland, in defiance of UN sanctions.

North Korea’s leader Kim and US President Donald Trump have traded threats of war and personal insults, sending tensions soaring.

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

However, the US has ruled out any possibility of talks before the North takes steps towards denuclearisation, and imposed what Trump hailed as the “toughest ever” sanctions on Kim’s regime late last month.

On Saturday, a foreign ministry spokesman in Pyongyang called on the US to drop any preconditions for talks.

Source: Al Jazeera