North Korean leader Kim Jong-un invited South Korean President Moon Jae-in for talks in Pyongyang, South Korean officials said on Saturday, setting the stage for the first meeting of Korean leaders in more than 10 years.
That meeting would represent a diplomatic coup for Moon, who swept to power last year on a policy of engaging with the reclusive North.
The recent – and sudden – detente, anchored by South Korea‘s hosting of the 2018 Winter Olympic Games that began Friday, came about despite an acceleration in the North‘s weapons programs last year and pressure from the United States.
The personal invitation from Kim was delivered by his younger sister, Kim Yo-jong, during talks and a lunch Moon hosted at the presidential Blue House in Seoul.
Kim Jong-un wanted to meet Moon “at an early date” and Moon had said “let’s create conditions to make it happen,” a presidential spokesman said, adding that Moon “practically accepted” the invitation.
“We would like to see you at an early date in Pyongyang,” Kim Yo-jong told Moon during the lunch, according to another Blue House official.
The prospect of two-way talks between the Koreas, however, may not be welcomed by the United States.
Washington has pursued a strategy of exerting maximum pressure on Pyongyang through tough sanctions and harsh rhetoric, demanding it give up its pursuit of nuclear weapons.
Moon asked the North Korean delegation during Saturday’s meeting to engage in dialogue with Washington “at an early date,” the Blue House said.
Kim Yo-jong is the first member of the ruling Kim family – bearing the “bloodline of the sacred Mount Paektu,” a centerpiece of the North‘s idolization and propaganda campaign – to cross the border into the South.
The 28-year-old is a crucial player in the North‘s Games delegation led by Kim Yong-nam, North Korea‘s nominal head of state. She is believed to control access to her brother, and is a major player in shaping his image. She has been blacklisted by the United States for her connection to human rights abuses and censorship.
However, Moon and Kim appear to have hit it off. She shook hands with Moon and smiled faintly as the South Korean leader entered a meeting room at the Blue House on Saturday. “I appreciate you stayed late out in the cold, are you all well?” Moon asked the delegation before reporters were ushered from the room.
Later in the day, Moon and Kim travelled across the peninsula to the coastal city of Gangneung to watch the first match of the joint Korean women’s ice hockey team against Switzerland.
While the late South Korean Presidents Kim Dae-jung and Roh Moo-hyun summited with the late North Korean leader Kim Jong-il in 2000 and 2007, the current delegation is the highest-level North Korean delegation ever to come to South Korea. The two states were established in 1948, following the division of the peninsula in 1945.
On Friday, there had been high hopes that the two senior North Koreans might – at the very least – have exchanged pleasantries with visiting US President Mike Pence. However – although the 90-year-old Kim was spotted chatting with UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres at a pre-opening ceremony dinner – that did not appear to happen last night, even though, at the opening ceremony, the Americans were sitting just a couple of meters away from the North Koreans.
There have been fears and warnings from pundits in both Seoul and Washington that the North Koreans seek to drive a wedge between the two allies with their Winter Games charm offensive.
But Pence himself has been taking a very, very hard line against North Korea on his current Asian tour.
After announcing the United States is about to hit North Korean with the toughest round of sanctions ever in Tokyo, he arrived in South Korea with Fred Warmbier, father of the student Otto Warmbier, who died last year after imprisonment in North Korea, in his entourage.
Yesterday, he visited the wreck of the Cheonan, the South Korean corvette sunk with great loss of life by a North Korean torpedo in 2010, where he was briefed by South Korean naval officers. The shattered hulk was raised from the Yellow Sea, and is now a memorial in the South Korean naval base at Pyeongtaek, close to the sprawling new US base rising at Camp Humphreys.
Pence and Warmbier also met with a group of North Korea defectors.
These moves do not signal a US move to reconcile with North Korea; more the opposite.
Peace is in the air. Hurray!
Kim Jong-un’s invitation for Moon Jae-in to visit with him in North Korea could be a great tactical move, if in fact the two leaders end up meeting, and Mr Kim can assure the safety and safe return to South Korea of Mr Moon and his entourage.
It seems China is already throwing some cold water on this potential "summit". The Donald Trump administration can’t be too happy about this, because it buys Mr Kim more time for his scientists and engineers to further develop their ballistic and nuclear weapons, and the meeting would take away US’s (own) arguments to unilaterally invade North Korea.
Regardless of what foreign powers may think and want, if the two Korean leaders do meet and find ways to defuse tensions and set in motion a peace process for the two Koreas then the world will be a better place for everyone, especially people living in the Koreas, Japan, China, and elsewhere. May there be peace in the Korean peninsula.
The world must stop the US from invading the Korean peninsula a second time!
What a scandal !. Stop sanctions against the North Korean people and let them live. Stop imperialistic notions and barbarian acts against peaceful civilians. Shame to US.
The US is acting like a dog in a manger. Snarling at everything within reach.
Tony, did you see Pence’s face ? Looked like LBJohnson’s face after JFK’s assassination… ( LBJ preparing to pump up the war in VN and re establishing the US$ to be printed by the FED ).
Pence’s thought was: damn ! nobody killed yet ?
Negotiations between North and South Korea, without the interference of any other countries, is the quickest way to peace in Korea. Unification between two such different systems is not possible, but a real detente, with relative free movement of people from both countries, with enhanced economic cooperation and even the tacit acceptance by South Korea of North Korea’s nuclear status, are possible to achieve. And the US would then be invited to leave South Korea for good. If necessary, China and Russia could be guarantors of such arrangement.
It looks like the US might be snubbed from another war on foreign soil. The war hawks in Washington must be fuming. Saudi Crown Prince MBS improves relations with Russia and China. This will increase the stability in the region and make an Iranian war less likely.
Luca Taramelli Pence looked like a viceroy in star wars.
Whether USA likes it or not, whether USA accepts it or not, North Korea is a fully-fledged nuclear power with ICBMs that can strike any city in USA. In order to avoid a nuclear war and to eliminate the threat of a nuclear war, USA must put an end to its invasion of Korea by removing all its soldiers out of Korea. Now that North Korea is a nuclear power, South Korea, and even Japan, have become more confident when dealing with USA. Mike Pence, who was generally ignored both by Japan and South Korea, has felt it during his recent visit to Japan and South Korea.
You said – "It seems China is already throwing some cold water on this potential "summit"." Where is the proud and evidence! Quote your source?
I thought the Korean participation as one nation in the Olympics and now the hint of a Korean ‘summit’ are classic examples of the subtle inscrutable ‘wei-qi’ or gomaku (black and white pebbles) chess that the Orient plays as distinct from the audacious Western chess.
If there is this traditional sort of Oriental ‘kabuki’ or shadow boxing going on, behind the scene, behind the curtains, who do you think might be the ‘instigator’?
The United States? Surely not with their World Sheriff ‘shoot to kill’ gunghoness!
Who is this ancient mind that is pulling strings like in ancient times of the Three Kingdoms?
Vince Cheok I was watching CCTV. It had a professor from one of the CPC’s university saying that North Korea continues to develope "unauthorized" weapons.
While I appreciate your request for me to footnote my sources, this is a comment section, not an acedmic paper, and if it were in that vein, I clearly would have cited my sources and foot-noted them.
If in fact the two Koreans’ leaders meet and work on peaceful unification of the two Koreas, Beijing would be as surprised as Washington D.C. at the "quickness" of how leader Kim and President Moon are able to come together constructively and substantively.
I’m for the two Koreas to unite for various reasons, among which is that the country had been united for over 5,000 years until the US and China (and Russia) had them divided "artifically" and "unnaturally".
Michael, I really doubt NK can strike any city in the US. But yes, the Anglos have genetically and historically proven to be greedy cowards all the way in their history… I would rather characterize this situation – hopefully – like a new Gallipoli, or like nowdays Syria, or like you name it.
Yes, greedy bloodthirsty coward liars ( See Pence’s face…)
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