South Korean Delegation Heads to North as Mediator Between Washington, Pyongyang

A delegation from South Korea left for North Korea on Monday. A South Korean presidential official said that the trip’s main goal is to bring the North and the U.S. to the talking table for a peaceful solution to be found regardings North Korea’s nuclear and missile programs.   

In recent times, both the U.S. and North Korea showed readiness for talks to start, but U.S. President Donald Trump made his demands that North Korea should “de-nuke” first. Meanwhile, the North said that it will not sit down to any talks under U.S. preconditions as it vowed that it will never give up their nuclear capabilities.

Reuters reported that the reclusive North Korea, which has made no secret of its pursuit of a nuclear-tipped missile capable of reaching the mainland United States in defiance of UN Security Council resolutions, is also concerned over a joint U.S.-South Korea military exercise, which it sees as a preparation for war. The military drill was previously postponed as a result of the Winter Olympics that were held in South Korea last month. The drill is now scheduled to start next month, as planned.

A South Korean official said on condition of anonymity that the 10-member South Korean delegation, headed by National Security Office head Chung Eui-yong, left from Seoul Air Base in Seongnam, near the capital.

“We will deliver President Moon Jae-in’s wish to bring about denuclearization of the Korean peninsula and permanent peace by extending the goodwill and better inter-Korean relations created by the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics,” Chung said at the presidential Blue House before he left.

Chung also added that “the delegation hopes to speak with North Korean officials on starting a dialogue between the North and the United States as well as other countries.”

The National Intelligence Service chief Suh Hoon and Vice Unification Minister Chun Hae-sung are also part of the delegation. According to Reuters, the delegation is expected to attend a dinner with North Korean officials on Monday, with another meeting set for early Tuesday.

The government hopes the visit will create “a positive atmosphere”, said the Unification Ministry spokesman Baik Tae-hyun.

On Monday morning, the office of South Korean President Moon Jae-in disclosed that there would be a meeting between North Korea’s leader Kim Jong-un and the delegation. The meeting would be the first between officials from the South and Kim since he rose to power, the Associated Press reported.

“I will certainly deliver President Moon’s firm resolve to achieve a denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula and genuine and permanent peace on the Korean Peninsula,” said Chung.

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