Seoul says it will send a 10-member delegation to North Korea for talks on promoting peace on the Korean Peninsula. The announcement comes amid a rare thaw in ties between the two sides, driven by the recent Olympics.
A team of special envoys from South Korea is to visit North Korea next week to discuss how to restart talks between Washington and Pyongyang on nuclear weapons, the presidential office in Seoul said on Sunday.
The planned visit is another sign of rapprochement between the two Koreas amid a detente that began over the Winter Olympics in South Korea's Pyeongchang.
The Games, which ended on February 25, saw the sister of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un make the first visit to the South by a member of the Kim family since the end of the Korean War in 1953. That conflict stopped with the signing of an armistice, not a peace treaty, meaning that the two sides are technically still at war.
The Blue House in Seoul said the delegation to the North would be led by national security director Chung Eui-yong and would hold talks with unidentified senior North Korean officials during a two-day visit. The team will also include South Korean spy chief Suh Hoon, who was instrumental in bringing about two previous inter-Korea summits in 2000 and 2007.
"The special delegates will have extensive discussions over issues including creating conditions for North-US talks to denuclearize the Korean peninsula and improving inter-Korea ties," presidential spokesman Yoon Young-chan told reporters.
Following the trip, the delegation would fly to the US to report on the talks to officials in Washington, Yoon said.
The move reflects the conciliatory approach of South Korean President Moon Jae-in, who has advocated dialogue with the North over its nuclear arms program amid soaring tensions with Washington.
Upping the ante
Last year, the North carried out its most powerful nuclear test and test-fired a number of long-range missiles in defiance of UN sanctions, provoking a war of words between Kim and US President Donald Trump.
The US has previously ruled out the possibility of holding talks with North Korea before it takes convincing steps toward nuclear disarmament, but Moon has urged Washington to "lower the threshold" so that negotiations can take place.
The nuclear standoff with North Korea is seen as a major threat to global security.
tj/jlw (AFP, AP)