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(3rd LD) N. Korean leader meets with S. Korean envoys: Cheong Wa Dae

2018/03/05 18:30

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(ATTN: UPDATES with more details, additional background in paras 4-7; ADDS photo)

SEOUL, March 5 (Yonhap) -- North Korean leader Kim Jong-un hosted a welcome dinner for South Korean President Moon Jae-in's special envoys on Monday, Seoul's presidential office Cheong Wa Dae said.

"Chairman Kim Jong-un is currently hosting a dinner for the special envoys," Cheong Wa Dae spokesman Kim Eui-kyeom told a press briefing.

It is the first time the reclusive North Korean leader has met South Korean officials. The dinner began at 6 p.m.

This photo, provided by South Korean presidential office Cheong Wa Dae, shows Kim Yong-chol (L), North Korea's point man on South Korea, holding a meeting with special envoys of South Korean President Moon Jae-in at a Pyongyang Hotel on March 5, 2018. (Yonhap) This photo, provided by South Korean presidential office Cheong Wa Dae, shows Kim Yong-chol (L), North Korea's point man on South Korea, holding a meeting with special envoys of South Korean President Moon Jae-in at a Pyongyang Hotel on March 5, 2018. (Yonhap)

Kim's meeting with the South Korean envoys apparently reflected his willingness to improve his country's ties with the South.

Moon and his aides have repeatedly highlighted the importance of talks between the U.S. and North Korea for the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula and have also noted that the trip by Moon's special envoys was partly aimed at arranging such dialogue.

"I plan to hold in-depth discussions on various ways to continue talks between not only the South and the North, but also the North and the United States and the international community," Chung Eui-yong, Moon's chief envoy and head of the presidential National Security Office, said shortly before his departure for Pyongyang.

The South Korean envoys arrived in Pyongyang at 2:50 p.m, about one hour after their departure from Seoul Air Base, according to the Cheong Wa Dae spokesman.

The North's state media earlier confirmed their arrival.

"The delegation of South Korean president's special envoys, including National Security Office Chief Chung Eui-yong, arrived in Pyongyang on March 5," the North's official Korean Central News Agency said in a short dispatch from the North Korean capital.

In a separate report, the North's Korean Central Broadcasting Station said the South Koreans were welcomed by Ri Son-gwon, chief of a North Korean agency in charge of inter-Korean affairs.

Ri visited South Korea as part of a high-delegation to the opening ceremony of the PyeongChang Winter Olympic Games held Feb. 9-25.

The South Korean delegation consisted of five special envoys, including Suh Hoon, chief of the country's spy agency National Intelligence Service, and five support staff.

They are set to return home Tuesday.

bdk@yna.co.kr

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