February 27, 2018 10:08
Senior government officials in charge of dealing with North Korea on Monday met with visiting North Korean apparatchik Kim Yong-chol, the head of the United Front Department that oversees agitation against South Korea.
Kim, who was here for the closing ceremony of the Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, met one-on-one with national security adviser Chung Eui-yong, Vice Unification Minister Chun Hae-sung, Foreign Ministry official Lee Do-hoon, and National Intelligence Service chief Suh Hoon.
They quoted Kim as saying, "The door remains open for dialogue with the U.S.," but said he made no response to demands for North Korea to scrap its nuclear weapons.
U.S. President Donald Trump's daughter Ivanka returned to the U.S. without meeting the North Korean delegation. Seoul had been trying to use the Winter Olympics to initiate dialogue between the U.S. and North Korea, but concrete progress has been elusive.
President Moon Jae-in met with Chinese Vice Premier Liu Yandong and asked for China's help in arranging a North Korea-U.S. meeting. He said, "It is important for [the two sides] to sit face to face as soon as possible."
A senior government official said that Moon raised the issue of denuclearization when he met Kim on Sunday, which had not been mentioned in a press statement Cheong Wa Dae released immediately after their meeting.
The official said, "We had to be cautious to keep the momentum of the talks going because North Korea reacts sensitively."
Moon apparently told Kim that North Korea must take "initial steps" for denuclearization. A ruling party source said that means halting additional nuclear tests and missile launches.
Kim voiced the North's willingness to sit down for talks without preconditions but made no comment on denuclearization.
Cheong Wa Dae said both sides "agreed to continue cooperating to establish permanent peace on the Korean Peninsula, seek sustainable development of inter-Korean relations and balance those efforts with global cooperation."
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