Envoys for South Korean President Moon Jae-in planned to meet Monday with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un at the start of a rare two-day visit to Pyongyang that's expected to focus on how to ease a standoff over North Korea's nuclear ambitions and restart talks between Pyongyang and Washington.
The 10-member South Korean delegation is led by Moon's national security director, Chung Eui-yong. The meeting with Kim, which was announced by Moon's office, would mark the first time South Korean officials have met with the young North Korean leader in person since he took power after his dictator father's death in late 2011. Chung's trip is the first known high-level visit by South Korean officials to the North in about a decade.
It wasn't immediately clear what they would discuss or what else is on the itinerary of the South Korean envoys' trip. But hopes are high that the Koreas can extend the good feelings created by North Korea's participation in the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics in South Korea last month. Kim's barrage of weapons tests over the last year has raised fears of war.
If North Korea shows a willingness to disarm during the visit by the South Koreans, there is speculation that it and Washington could set up their own talks on the North's nuclear weapons. But North Korea has repeatedly said it won't put its nuclear program up for negotiation, while the United States has made clear that it doesn't want empty talks and that all options, including military measures, are on the table. Previous warming ties between the Koreas have come to nothing because of North Korean weapons tests and the North's claims that annual U.S.-South Korean war games, which will likely happen this spring, are a rehearsal for an invasion.
After their arrival in Pyongyang, the South Korean envoys met North Korean officials and worked out details of their trip, which includes attending a dinner hosted by Kim on Monday, according to Moon's office.