South Korea has claimed that Kim Jong-un is ready to give up North Korea’s nuclear weapons if the security of his regime is guaranteed.
Following a meeting between the two Koreas in Pyongyang, the South Korean envoy said that progress was made in the search for lasting peace.
National security adviser Chung Eui-yong said: ‘The North made clear its willingness for the denuclearisation of the Korean peninsula, and made clear that there is no reason to own nuclear (programmes) if military threats towards the North are cleared and the security of its regime is guaranteed.’
North Korea, which has previously refused to give up its nuclear weapons, is to hold a summit with the South at the heavily-armed border at the village of Panmunjom in April.
Kim and South Korean president Moon Jae-in will have their first phone conversation before the summit.
Relations between North and South Korea may be thawing after the two countries held an ‘openhearted talk’ in Pyongyang.
The South Korean envoy for President Moon Jae-in met with the North Korean leader in the North’s capital, giving fresh hope that both sides are trying to mend ties after a year of repeated North Korean weapons tests and threats of nuclear war.
North Korea’s state media said Kim expressed his desire to ‘write a new history of national reunification’ during a dinner on Monday night that Seoul said lasted about four hours.
The North Korean report did its utmost to make Kim look statesmanlike as he welcomed the visiting South Koreans.
Smiling for cameras, Kim posed with the South Koreans and presided over what was described as a ‘co-patriotic and sincere atmosphere’.
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Photos distributed by the North showed a beaming Kim holding hands with national security director, Chung Eui-yong.
Kim was said to have given ‘important instruction to the relevant field to rapidly take practical steps for’ a summit with Mr Moon, which the North proposed last month.
Given the history of bloodshed, threats and animosity on the Korean Peninsula, there is considerable scepticism over whether the Koreas’ apparent warming relations will lead to lasting peace.
Many believe that North Korea is simply trying to use improved ties with the South to weaken US-led international sanctions and pressure.
However, the developments also raise the possibility that the rivals can use the momentum from the good feelings created during North Korea’s participation in the South’s Pyeongchang Winter Olympics last month to ease a standoff over the North’s nuclear ambitions and restart talks between Pyongyang and Washington.
The South Korean delegates have another meeting with North Korean officials on Tuesday before returning home, but it is unclear if Kim will be there.