South Korea said it will dispatch a delegation led by senior security officials for a two-day visit to North Korea starting Monday as US President Donald Trump hinted that he is ready to talk to Pyongyang, Reuters reports.
For its part, North Korea said it was not begging to talk with Washington and denounced upcoming US-South Korean joint-military exercises, warning that it would take counter-measures against the United States if they went ahead.
The drills will take place next month, a South Korean presidential security adviser said, according to the Yonhap news agency. They had been delayed until after the Winter Olympics and Paralympic games in South Korea.
South Korea’s presidential Blue House said in a statement that National Security Office (NSO) head Chung Eui-yong and National Intelligence Service (NIS) chief Suh Hoon, a veteran of past negotiations with the North, will be among the 10-member South Korean delegation visiting Pyongyang.
The visit was part of an effort to lower tensions on the Korean peninsula as well as possibly arrange talks between North Korea and the United States, it said.
After the visit to North Korea the envoys will travel to the United States to brief officials, and Seoul said it would also coordinate closely with officials in Japan and China.
During a joke-filled monologue at a dinner with journalists in Washington on Saturday, Trump suggested that the US will be meeting with North Korea but has told Pyongyang it must first “denuke”.
“We will be meeting and we’ll see if anything positive happens,” he added.
It was unclear if Trump was joking or if formal US-North Korea talks were imminent.
Speaking on Sunday in Beijing ahead of the opening of China’s parliament, Vice Foreign Minister Zhang Yesui said China hoped the US and North Korea could begin dialogue too.
“War and chaos on the peninsula are not in the interests of any side,” Zhang said.
Last month, US Vice President Mike Pence was scheduled to meet with North Korean officials, including leader Kim Jong-un’s sister, while in South Korea for the Winter Olympics but the North Koreans canceled at the last minute, US officials said in February.
North Korea reiterated on Saturday that it was willing to talk to the US but said it would never sit with any precondition.
A North Korean foreign ministry spokesman was quoted by KCNA as saying “we will neither beg for dialogue nor evade the military option claimed by the US”.
A commentary published by North Korea’s official KCNA news agency warned that North Korea would “counter the US” if joint military drills go forward.
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