About the Author
Dagyum Ji is a senior NK News correspondent based in Seoul. She previously worked for Reuters TV.
North Korean senior official Kim Yong Chol on Monday reiterated Pyongyang’s willingness to hold talks with Washington “several times” at a luncheon hosted by South Korean Chief of National Security Office (NSO) Chung Eui-yong.
“The door for dialogue with the U.S. remains open,” Kim reportedly said, quoted by a senior official at the South Korean presidential office speaking to media on condition of anonymity.
“He said ‘we have expressed several times that we are willing to have talks with the U.S.,’” the senior South Korean official said.
Kim serves as vice-chairman of the Central Committee of the Workers’ Party of Korea (WPK) and director of the United Front Department of the WPK Central Committee.
He was accompanied by Chairman of the DPRK’s Committee for the Peaceful Reunification of the Country (CPRC) Ri Son Gwon and others from the North Korean delegation in a meeting from 1230 to 1430 KST.
South Korean vice unification minister Chun Hae-sung and second deputy chief of the National Security Office Nam Gwan-pyo also took part in the meeting, as did Lee Do-hoon, chief nuclear negotiator and Special Representative for Korean Peninsula Peace and Security Affairs at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA).
“Both sides assessed that the PyeongChang Olympics was a meaningful opportunity to embody the Olympic spirit of peace and harmony and restore the South-North relations,” the Blue House said in a written statement.
In a statement carried by Yonhap News Agency, the South Korean official said Kim did not “suggest any precondition” for talks with the U.S.
When asked about whether the North would be willing to discuss denuclearization, the official said the North Korean delegation “didn’t directly mention” it.
The Kim Yong Chol-led delegation began a three-day trip to the South on Sunday, meeting with President Moon Jae-in and expressing a desire to engage in talks with the U.S.
According to the Blue House, the North Koreans reportedly shared Moon’s view that the inter-Korean relations “should be developed alongside the North-U.S. relations.”
The Ministry of Unification (MOU) on Monday said the government believes that Washington and Pyongyang could start “constructive dialogue” at the “appropriate opportunity.”
“President Moon yesterday specifically asked which method should be taken for the denuclearization… during the meeting with vice-chairman Kim,” a Blue House official said in the statement carried by Yonhap.
Moon “made a statement that the North should denuclearize in principle,” the official continues.
“The North Koreans seriously listened to President Moon’s statement, and there was a response but it’s not appropriate for me to deliver.”
South Korean Minister of Unification Cho Myoung-gyon held an hour-long banquet on Sunday night from 1630 local time attended by Kim Yong Chol and Ri Son Gwon.
“[Both] agreed to share the view to continuously develop the atmosphere for reconciliation between the South and the North which was established through the PyeongChang Winter Olympics and to continue to cooperate,” the MOU said.
Meanwhile, President Moon on Monday morning met with Chinese Vice Premier Liu Yandong.
Both agreed that recent inter-Korean rapprochement should lead to North-U.S. dialogue, Blue House spokesperson Kim Eui-kyeom said in a statement.
“North Korea showed the intention to actively engage in the North-U.S. dialogue recently, and the U.S. has raised the necessity of talks,” Moon was quoted as having said.
“The U.S. needs to lower its bar for dialogue, and the North must show its willingness of denuclearization either.”
Edited by Oliver Hotham
Featured Image: Ministry of Unification