North Korean leader Kim Jong-un is willing to talk with the United States about giving up his nuclear weapons program in a remarkable turnaround following meetings with a high-level South Korean delegation.
South Korean national security chief Chung Eui-yong said Kim had also agreed to refrain from conducting nuclear and missile tests while engaging in dialogue with Seoul.
The South Korean delegation, the first to meet Kim since he took control of the North in 2011, held high-level meetings on Monday and Tuesday, as well as dining with the North Korean leader on Monday night.
North and South Korea will also hold their first summit in more than a decade next month at the border village of Panmunjom, Mr Chung said.
He told media on his return to Seoul on Tuesday night that Pyongyang expressed willingness to talk to the United States “in an open-ended dialogue to discuss the issue of denuclearisation and to normalise relations with North Korea”.
Pyongyang said it would have no reason to retain nuclear weapons if “the military threat to North Korea is resolved” and the country’s security can be guaranteed, Mr Chung said.
US President Donald Trump was guardedly optimistic about the development, tweeting Wednesday morning (AEDT) he saw “possible progress” from the South Korean meeting.
“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 US is ready to go hard in either direction!” Mr Trump wrote.
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!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) March 6, 2018
North and South Korea are still technically at war but have enjoyed a sharp easing in tension since the Winter Olympics in the South last month.
Mr Chung cited the North as saying it would not carry out nuclear or missile tests while talks with the international community were under way. North Korea has not carried out any such tests since November last year.
“The North also said it can have frank talks with the United States on denuclearisation and the normalisation of ties between North Korea and the United States,” Mr Chung said.