Seoul : North Korea’s rather reclusive leader Kim Jong-un has asked South Korean President Moon Jae-in to visit Pyongyang at the “earliest date” possible for what will be a third inter-Korean summit.
The invitation was delivered on Saturday at a landmark meeting between Moon and the North Korean leader’s sister Kim Yo-jong in the Presidential Palace in Seoul, Yonhap news agency reported.
Kim Yo-jong and the North’s ceremonial head of state, Kim Yong-nam, made up the most senior delegation from Pyongyang o visit the South since the Korean War in the 1950s.
Kim Yo-jong invited Moon to visit “at the early date possible”, a spokesman for South Korea’s Presidential Palace said.
Moon apparently cited the conditions necessary for an inter-Korean summit. “Let us make it happen by creating the necessary conditions in the future,” he was quoted as saying.
The South Korean President also stressed the need for the Communist North to resume its dialogue with the US. “An early resumption of dialogue between the US and the North is needed also for the development of the South-North Korean relationship,” he said, according to his spokesman.
The figures from the two Koreas shared kimchi (Korean pickled cabbage) and soju rice liquor, and spoke for three hours. Moon’s spokesman said the meeting at the Blue House was held in a “friendly” mood.
Other members of the North Korean delegation present at Saturday’s meeting included Ri Son Gwon — who led the first sit-down talks at the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) earlier this year, and Choe Hwi.
South Korean participants included senior officials Jeong Eui-yong, Jo Myong-gyoon and Im Jong-suk — the chief Presidential Secretary.
The meeting followed a brief encounter between the two parties at the Olympic Opening Ceremony on Friday, in which Moon twice shook hands with Yo-jong.
However, the apparent thaw was not reflected in Washington. US Vice-President Mike Pence, sitting a few seats away in the same Opening Ceremony VIP booth, looked stony faced as the scene unfolded.
Pence, who is leading the US delegation to the Olympics, briefly encountered Kim Yong-nam at the Games but the two tried to avoid directly facing each other.
He has accused Pyongyang of using the event for its own ends. “We will not allow North Korean propaganda to hijack the message and imagery of the Olympic Games,” he said in Japan earlier this week.
Later on Saturday, Moon and Kim Yong-nam will attend the first ice hockey match played by teams from both the sides, according to reports.
It was not immediately reported whether the North Korean leader’s sister would attend the evening match against Switzerland.