The two Koreas agreed to conduct further high-level talks before mid-November, following an unexpected visit to the Incheon Games closing ceremony by a group of senior North Korean figures.
A North Korean delegation comprising Hwang Pyong So, Choe Ryong Hae and Kim Yang Gon agreed with South Korean counterparts to conduct further high-level meetings at a time of South Korea’s convenience, reports said of the delegation visit on Saturday.
“In today’s talks, the North said it would hold the second round of high-level contact, which we have proposed so far, between late October and early November,” South Korean unification ministry spokesman Lim Byeong-cheol said in remarks carried by Yonhap News Agency.
During the surprise day-long visit, South Korean President Park Geun-hye expressed willingness to meet the North Korean delegation, but citing a tight schedule, the visitors “courteously declined the offer,” Yonhap said.
But the North Korean delegation did conduct a 14 minute meeting with South Korean Prime Minister Chung Hong-won, held during the Incheon Games closing ceremony.
And prior to leaving the delegation also conducted further stadium meetings with South Korean political figures from several political parties, Yonhap added.
While the specifics of Saturday’s discussions were not made public, the North Korean visit marked the highest level delegation to visit the South in at least five years, prompting some observers to suggest Pyongyang may now be eager to mend ties with Seoul.
“The North Korean elites are trying to mend bridges with their South Korean counterparts while Kim Jong Un is sick,” said Leonid Petrov, a North Korea watcher at the Australia National University in Canberra.
“After the 2013 confrontation, Kim Jong Un has had zero chance to meet the neighboring states leaders,” Petrov explained, referring to soured inter-Korean relations in the wake of Pyongyang’s February 2013 nuclear test.
“His mysterious sickness allows him to send his envoys to resume the interrupted dialogue,” Petrov continued. “North Korea wants to come out of isolation but without changing its nuclear policy or promising any concessions on other fronts.”
“Now the ball is in South Korean court. It’s up to President Park Geun-hye to continue the resumed dialogue or to continue the hard line, mistakenly named as ‘trustpolitik,'” Petrov concluded.
The visit, which has dominated South Korean domestic TV and radio news throughout Saturday, comes following months of difficult relations between the two Koreas.
North Korean media has referred to South Korean President Park as a “bitch” on several occasions in recent months, making Saturday’s visit a surprise for many observers.
Even as Saturday’s trip was wrapping up, the scrolling headline on DPRK state media outlet the Korea Central News Agency’s website continued to read, “CPRK Statement Denounces Park Geun Hye for Resorting to Acts of Sycophantic Treachery.”
While North Korean state media accompanied Saturday’s delegation, the KCNA website had not updated with progress of the visit by the time of writing.
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