South Korea's spy chief to visit North as special envoy: report

Moon seeks to open dialogue between US and North in hopes of easing a nuclear standoff

Afp March 04, 2018
Kim Yo Jong's trip to Seoul marked the first visit to the South by a member of the Kim family since the end of the Korean war PHOTO: AFP

SEOUL: South Korea's spy chief will visit North Korea as a special envoy of President Moon Jae-in, a report said Sunday, the latest in the Olympics-driven detente between the two Koreas.

An intense rapprochement saw the two Koreas march together at the South's Pyeongchang Winter Olympics that ended February 25, with the North's leader Kim Jong Un sending his sister as a special envoy to the event.

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Kim Yo Jong's appearance at the Games' opening ceremony made global headlines, marking the first visit to the South by a member of the Kim family since the end of the Korean war.

Moon has sought to use the Pyeongchang Games to open dialogue between the US and the North in the hopes of easing a nuclear standoff that has heightened fears over global security.

Suh Hoon, the chief of the South's National Intelligence Service, will jointly lead Seoul's delegation of about five to six officials along with Moon's top national security advisor Chung Eui-Yong, Yonhap news agency said, citing an unnamed official at Moon's office.

"They will visit the North early this week," it said.

The isolated, impoverished North staged its most powerful nuclear test and test-fired multiple missiles last year, including some capable of hitting the US mainland, in defiance of UN sanctions.

The North's leader Kim and US President Donald Trump have also traded threats of war and personal insults, sending tensions soaring.

Moon, who advocates dialogue with the nuclear-armed regime, said last week that Washington needs to "lower the threshold for talks" with Pyongyang.

But the US has ruled out any possibility of talks before the North takes steps towards denuclearisation, and imposed what Trump hailed as the "toughest ever" sanctions on Kim's regime late last month.

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Suh, a veteran in dealings with the North, is known to have been deeply involved in negotiations to arrange two previous inter-Korea summits in 2000 and 2007.

But the upcoming trip will be focused on creating conditions for potential talks between Washington and Pyongyang, the source quoted by Yonhap said.

"What's most important right now is US-North talks, not inter-Korea talks," it quoted the official as saying.