Wednesday 21 March 2018

Kim in shock move to personally host 10-strong delegation from the South

The delegation in Pyongyang. Photo: Getty Images
The delegation in Pyongyang. Photo: Getty Images

Nicola Smith

North Korea's reclusive leader Kim Jong-un is hosting a dinner for a top level South Korean delegation to Pyongyang, in an unprecedented boost to an ongoing diplomatic détente that has raised hopes of future talks over the hermit kingdom's nuclear programme.

South Korean President Moon Jae-in yesterday dispatched his national security head Chung Eui-yong and intelligence chief Suh Hoon to lead a 10-member delegation on a two-day trip to the North Korean capital. The delegation will hold talks that could pave the way for a possible summit meeting between the leaders of South and North Korea after Kim Jong-un last month invited Mr Moon to visit Pyongyang.

They will also discuss how to resume dialogue between the US and North Korea over its nuclear and weapons programme.

However, it was not known until the delegation landed at 2.50pm local time whether Kim Jong-un would personally meet with them, in what would be his first encounter with South Korean officials since coming to power in 2011.

Mr Kim's dinner invitation was confirmed by South Korea's presidential office, who said it began at 6pm local time.

The envoys are carrying a letter from Mr Moon to hand to their host.

Photos provided by the president's office, also known by the Blue House, showed the delegation walking resolutely in dark suits across the tarmac after landing in Pyongyang after the short flight from Seoul.

They were welcomed by Ri Son-gwon, chief of a North Korean agency in charge of inter-Korean affairs.

"I plan to hold in-depth discussions on various ways to continue talks between not only the South and the North, but also the North and the United States," Mr Chung said shortly before his departure.

Mr Moon and his aides have repeatedly stressed the importance of talks between Washington and Pyongyang, and for the denuclearisation of the Korean Peninsula.

© Daily Telegraph, London

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