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South Korea could send special envoy to North next week

By Elizabeth Shim
South Korea could send special envoy to North next week
South Korean President Moon Jae-in (L) is keeping up the momentum of inter-Korea detente with a decision to send a special envoy to North Korea next week. Photo by Keizo Mori/UPI | License Photo

March 2 (UPI) -- South Korea is ready to send a special envoy to North Korea next week, following a late-evening phone call between U.S. President Donald Trump and South Korean President Moon Jae-in.

Potential candidates for the official visit that could pave the way for a summit between Moon and reclusive leader Kim Jong Un include two administration officials, Suh Hoon and Chung Eui-yong, South Korean newspaper Hankyoreh reported Friday.

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Suh is Seoul's intelligence service chief and Chung is the director of the presidential Blue House's National Security Office.

According to the Hankyoreh, Suh is the more plausible candidate, because he is well versed in inter-Korea relations, but Chung could play a key role as he has been a point of contact with the White House.

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South Korea television network MBC reported Friday Suh was also involved in negotiating a meeting between U.S. Vice President Mike Pence and North Korean envoy Kim Yo Jong during the Olympics. The meeting never took place, maybe because North Korea turned down talks.

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A senior official at the Blue House told the newspaper the trip must be undertaken to return the favor of the North's visit during the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, when Pyongyang sent more than 700 delegates.

"The North was the first to send a delegation that was in size and level nothing like we have seen in the past," the official said. "We will also send a high-ranking envoy."

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The report did not mention the North Korean Olympic visit was paid for by South Korean taxpayers, an amount that is estimated to be about $2.7 million.

Moon continues to brief Trump on North Korea developments and the two leaders agreed late Friday that "any dialogue with North Korea must be conducted with the explicit and unwavering goal of complete, verifiable, and irreversible denuclearization," according to a statement from the White House.

On Friday, Seoul's unification ministry confirmed the two leaders would "continue their efforts to maintain the momentum of inter-Korea dialogue in order to lead to the denuclearization of the Korean peninsula," MBC reported.

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