SEOUL/PYEONGCHANG, South Korea (Reuters) – North Korean leader Kim Jong Un invited South Korean President Moon Jae-in for talks in Pyongyang, South Korean officials said on Saturday, setting the stage for the first meeting of Korean leaders in more than 10 years.
Any meeting would represent a diplomatic coup for Moon, who swept to power last year on a policy of engaging more with the reclusive North and has pushed for a diplomatic solution to the standoff over North Korea’s nuclear and missile programme.
The recent detente, anchored by South Korea’s hosting of the Winter Olympic Games that began on Friday, came despite an acceleration in the North’s weapons programmes last year and pressure from Seoul’s allies in Washington.
The personal invitation from Kim was delivered verbally by his younger sister, Kim Yo Jong, during talks and a lunch Moon hosted at the presidential Blue House in Seoul.
Kim Jong Un wanted to meet Moon “in the near future” and would like for him to visit North Korea “at his earliest convenience”, his sister told Moon, who had said “let’s create the environment for that to be able to happen,” Blue House spokesman Kim Eui-kyeom told a news briefing.
A Blue House official said Moon “practically accepted” the invitation.
“We would like to see you at an early date in Pyongyang”, Kim Yo Jong told Moon during the lunch, and also delivered her brother’s personal letter that expressed his “desire to improve inter-Korean relations,” the Blue House said.
The prospect of two-way talks between the Koreas, however, may not be welcomed by the United States.