SEOUL – President Moon Jae-in of South Korea told President Donald Trump on Thursday that he planned to send a special envoy to North Korea as part of his effort to broker talks between the United States and the North on ending its nuclear weapons program.
Moon’s office said he talked with Trump on the phone Thursday to discuss joint strategies, based upon the discussions that Moon and his aides have held with senior North Korean officials who visited South Korea last month to attend the opening and closing ceremonies of the Olympics in Pyeongchang.
“The two heads of state agreed to keep the momentum in South-North Korean dialogue and continue efforts to use it to lead to the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula,” Moon’s office said. “To that end, President Moon notified President Trump that his government will soon send a special envoy to the North to confirm the discussions it has held with the high-level North Korean delegates.”
By sending a special envoy to North Korea, Moon was also reciprocating the visit to South Korea by Kim Yo Jong, the sister and trusted aide of the North Korean leader, Kim Jong Un, it said. Kim Jong Un sent his sister to attend the opening ceremony of the Olympics last month and to deliver his invitation to Moon to visit the North for an inter-Korean summit meeting.
Kim sent another high-level delegation, led by his former spy chief, Kim Yong Chol, to the closing ceremony Sunday. The delegates told Moon that North Korea was willing to start talks with Washington, although it remained unclear whether it was ready to discuss denuclearization, as Washington has demanded.
North Korea says it will not bargain away its nuclear weapons, and it insists that the United States first recognize it as a nuclear power. Only then, the North Koreans say, will they sit down with U.S. officials to discuss mutual arms reduction on the Korean Peninsula.
On Monday, Trump said the Americans “want to talk also” — but “only under the right conditions.” Otherwise, he said, “we’re not talking.”