ReutersSEOUL (Reuters) — North Korean leader Kim Jong Un invited South Korean President Moon Jae In to Pyongyang “at an early date,” South Korean officials said on Saturday, potentially setting up 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.
The recent detente, anchored by South Korea’s hosting of the Winter Olympic Games, came despite an acceleration in the North’s weapons program last year and pressure from Seoul’s allies in Washington.
The invitation came during talks and a lunch Moon hosted with Kim Yo Jong, the younger sister of the North Korean leader, at the presidential Blue House in Seoul.
Kim Jong Un wanted to meet Moon “at an early date,” a spokesman for the Blue House said. Moon had said, “Let’s create conditions to make it happen,” the official said, an indication that Moon was likely to accept the invitation.
Kim Yo Jong arrived in South Korea on Friday with Kim Yong Nam, the North’s nominal head of state, for the opening ceremony of the Winter Olympics in the alpine resort town of Pyeongchang.
They shook hands with Moon and cheered for athletes from the two countries who marched under a unified peninsula flag for the first time in a decade.
Some North Korean experts believe tough U.N. sanctions that are cutting off most of the isolated North’s sources of revenue have added pressure on Pyongyang to engage further with Seoul.
“I think this overture toward South Korea is partly sanctions-related, and also related to the fact that it’s clear a divergence has developed between Washington and Seoul’s most keenly desired goals in the near term,” said Andray Abrahamian, a research fellow at Pacific Forum CSIS in Hawaii.Speech