Updated at 12:45 p.m. ET
North Korea says it is willing to discuss denuclearizing the Korean Peninsula with the United States, a key requirement laid out by the Trump administration as a precondition for talks with Pyongyang.
South Korean officials who returned from a two-day visit to the North Korean capital reportedly brought back the communication. The North also said it was willing to send a delegation for dialogue with the South next month at the border village of Panmunjom.
“North Korea has clearly expressed its intention for denuclearization on the Korean peninsula, and if there is no military threat and North Korea’s regime security is promised, they have clarified that there is no reason to hold nuclear weapons,” South Korean President Moon Jae-in’s office said.
Taken at face value, the sudden shift would mark a major diplomatic breakthrough following last year’s heated rhetoric, with Pyongyang threatening the U.S. with ballistic missiles and President Trump promising to rain “fire and fury” on the North. However, the North has yet to corroborate the statement.
Kim made the offer during a meeting with Moon’s special envoy in Pyongyang, and NPR’s Elise Hu reports that the surprise change in position includes a promise to temporarily suspend nuclear and missile tests while negotiations were underway.
In a tweet, the president forwarded a headline from the Drudge Report about the high-level meeting in Pyongyang, adding, “We will see what happens!”
Just over an hour later, he added: “Possible progress being made in talks with North Korea. For the first time in many years, a serious effort is being made by all parties concerned. The World is watching and waiting! May be false hope, but the U.S. is ready to go hard in either direction!”
Hours later, Vice President Mike Pence issued a statement saying, “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.”
Last month, White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said in a statement, “the international community broadly agree that denuclearization must be the result of any dialogue with North Korea.”
As Reuters writes: “The United States, which stations 28,500 troops in the South, a legacy of the Korean War, denies any such plans. To ensure close communication, the two Koreas, whose 1950-53 conflict ended in a mere truce, not a peace treaty, will set up a hotline between South Korean President Moon Jae-in and Kim Jong Un, Chung said. The last inter-Korean summit was in 2007 when late former president Roh Moo-hyun was in office.”