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Kim Jong Un willing to talk about denuclearization

By
Jennie Oh
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un meets with South Korean officials in Pyongyang, North Korea, on Monday. Photo courtesy of KCNA/UPI
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un meets with South Korean officials in Pyongyang, North Korea, on Monday. Photo courtesy of KCNA/UPI | License Photo

SEOUL, March 6 (UPI) -- North Korean leader Kim Jong Un is willing to discuss denuclearization with the United States and halt its nuclear and missile provocations while dialogue is ongoing, a Seoul official said Tuesday.

Debriefing on his two-day trip to Pyongyang, South Korean President Moon Jae-in's security adviser Chung Eui-yong told reporters that the North Korean regime "clearly stated its willingness to denuclearize."

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"It made it clear that it would have no reason to keep nuclear weapons if the military threat to the North was eliminated and its security guaranteed," he said.

Chung added the North showed interest in an open-ended dialogue with Washington, as well as an inter-Korean peace summit in late April -- the first in more than a decade.

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"The North expressed its willingness to hold a heartfelt dialogue with the United States on the issues of denuclearization and normalizing relations with the United States," the security official added. "It made it clear that while dialogue is continuing, it will not attempt any strategic provocations, such as nuclear and ballistic missile tests."

This marks the first time the North Korean leader has indicated he's willing to give up nuclear weapons in exchange for U.S. security guarantees -- a major step in Moon's efforts to improve Korean relations.

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Kim's willingness to talk follows many months of repeated missile tests and a feud with U.S. President Donald Trump. Last summer, the two leaders sparred verbally over nuclear weapons and led Trump to say the United States would defend itself with "fire and fury."

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U.S. Vice President Mike Pence said in a statement Tuesday, "Whichever direction talks with North Korea go, we will be firm in our resolve. The United States and our allies remain committed to applying maximum pressure on the Kim regime to end their nuclear program. All options are on the table and our posture toward the regime will not change until we see credible, verifiable, and concrete steps toward denuclearization."

Tuesday's milestone follows North and South Korean athletes participating under a unified flag last month at the Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang.

South Korea has been pushing for dialogue between Washington and Pyongyang to broker peace on the Korean Peninsula, as well as talks on dismantling the North's nuclear program.

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Representing South Korea during the two-day visit to Pyongyang were Chung, National Intelligence Service Director Suh Joon, Vice Unification Minister Chun Hae-sung and Yun Kyun-young, a presidential official on state affairs.

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The five officials held talks Monday with Kim Jong Un, his sister Kim Yo Jong and Workers' Party Central Committee Vice Chairman Kim Yong Chol.

Kim Jong Un's wife, Ri Sol-ju, and Ri Son-gwon, chairman of North Korea's Committee for Peaceful Reunification, joined the group for a banquet.

It was the first time South Korean officials set foot in the Workers' Party headquarters, according to South Korea's top office.

They are expected to brief parliamentary leaders on the outcome of their trip on Wednesday.

Chung and Suh will also visit Washington later in the week to share the results with U.S. officials.

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