North Korean leader Kim Jong-un has said the country is prepared to give up its nuclear weapons program and hold talks with the US in return for security guarantees, South Korea has said.
The claim was made by South Korean envoys returning to the South after a two-day trip to the North that included dinner with Kim himself – the first time he has met officials from Seoul since he succeeded his father as leader of North Korea in 2011.
“The North side clearly affirmed its commitment to the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula and said it would have no reason to possess nuclear weapons should the safety of its regime be guaranteed and military threats against North Korea removed,” Chung Eui-yon, the top security adviser for South Korea’s president, said according to the South’s Yonhap news agency.
He added that Kim and the South’s president Moon Jae-in would meet face-to-face at the end of April in the joint security area of Panmunjom.
The US has said North Korea abandoning nuclear weapons and suspending all missile tests is a precondition for any direct talks taking place between the two countries, which are being sought to defuse escalating military tensions.
North Korea has not officially confirmed it is willing to take such a step, but state media KCNA said Kim had “warmly welcomed” South Korean delegates to the four-hour dinner that was also attended by his wife Ri Sol-ju and sister Kim Yo-jong, who was part of the North Korean delegation at the recent Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang.
KCNA added that Kim held “open-hearted” talks, and wanted to “write a new history of national reunification”.
The South Korean delegation visited Pyongyang as part of the slight thaw in diplomatic relations between the two countries – which are technically still at war with each other – that has been taking place before and after a Games that saw the Korean athletes march under a unified flag.