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Koreas meet to discuss issues

  • North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, front right, meets South Korean National Security Director Chung Eui-yong, front left, in Pyongyang, North Korea. Independent journalists were not given access to cover the event depicted in this image distributed by the North Korean government. The content of this image is as provided and cannot be independently verified. Korean language watermark on image as provided by source reads: “KCNA” which is the abbreviation for Korean Central News Agency. AP Photo

  • In this Monday, March 5, 2018 photo, provided by the North Korean government on March 6, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, center, his sister Kim Yo Jong, and Vice Chairman of North Korea's ruling Workers' Party Central Committee Kim Yong Chol meet members of South Korean delegation headed by National Security Director Chung Eui-yong in Pyongyang, North Korea. Independent journalists were not given access to cover the event depicted in this image distributed by the North Korean government. The content of this image is as provided and cannot be independently verified. Korean language watermark on image as provided by source reads: "KCNA" which is the abbreviation for Korean Central News Agency. (Korean Central News Agency/Korea News Service via AP) 朝鮮通信社

  • In this Monday, March 5, 2018 photo, provided by the North Korean government on March 6, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, front right, shakes hands with South Korean National Security Director Chung Eui-yong after Chung gave Kim the letter from South Korean President Moon Jae-in, in Pyongyang, North Korea. Independent journalists were not given access to cover the event depicted in this image distributed by the North Korean government. The content of this image is as provided and cannot be independently verified. Korean language watermark on image as provided by source reads: "KCNA" which is the abbreviation for Korean Central News Agency. (Korean Central News Agency/Korea News Service via AP) 朝鮮通信社

  • In this Monday, March 5, 2018 photo, provided by the North Korean government on March 6, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, left, shakes hands with South Korean National Security Director Chung Eui-yong in Pyongyang, North Korea. Independent journalists were not given access to cover the event depicted in this image distributed by the North Korean government. The content of this image is as provided and cannot be independently verified. Korean language watermark on image as provided by source reads: "KCNA" which is the abbreviation for Korean Central News Agency. (Korean Central News Agency/Korea News Service via AP) 朝鮮通信社

  • In this Monday, March 5, 2018 photo, provided by the North Korean government on March 6, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, second left, meets members of South Korean delegation headed by National Security Director Chung Eui-yong, center in right row, in Pyongyang, North Korea. Independent journalists were not given access to cover the event depicted in this image distributed by the North Korean government. The content of this image is as provided and cannot be independently verified. Korean language watermark on image as provided by source reads: "KCNA" which is the abbreviation for Korean Central News Agency. (Korean Central News Agency/Korea News Service via AP) 朝鮮通信社

  • In this Monday, March 5, 2018 photo, provided by the North Korean government on March 6, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, center right in the background, and his wife Ri Sol Ju, center left in the background, meet members of South Korean delegation headed by National Security Director Chung Eui-yong, right in the background, in Pyongyang, North Korea. Independent journalists were not given access to cover the event depicted in this image distributed by the North Korean government. The content of this image is as provided and cannot be independently verified. Korean language watermark on image as provided by source reads: "KCNA" which is the abbreviation for Korean Central News Agency. (Korean Central News Agency/Korea News Service via AP) 朝鮮通信社

  • In this Monday, March 5, 2018 photo, provided by the North Korean government on March 6, South Korean National Security Director Chung Eui-yong, center, talks with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, unseen, in Pyongyang, North Korea. Independent journalists were not given access to cover the event depicted in this image distributed by the North Korean government. The content of this image is as provided and cannot be independently verified. Korean language watermark on image as provided by source reads: "KCNA" which is the abbreviation for Korean Central News Agency. (Korean Central News Agency/Korea News Service via AP) 朝鮮通信社

  • In this photo provided by South Korea Presidential Blue House via Yonhap News Agency, Kim Yong Chol, vice chairman of North Korea's ruling Workers' Party Central Committee, second from right, talks with South Korean delegation in Pyongyang, North Korea, Monday, March 5, 2018. Envoys for South Korean President Moon Jae-in, led by Moon's national security director, Chung Eui-yong, are on a rare two-day visit to Pyongyang that’s expected to focus on how to ease a standoff over North Korea’s nuclear ambitions and restart talks between Pyongyang and Washington. (South Korea Presidential Blue House/Yonhap via AP)

  • In this photo provided by South Korea Presidential Blue House via Yonhap News Agency, South Korean national security director, Chung Eui-yong, third from left, meets with North Korean vice chairman of North Korea's ruling Workers' Party Central Committee, Kim Yong Chol, second from right, in Pyongyang, North Korea, Monday, March 5, 2018. The envoys for South Korean President Moon Jae-in are on a rare two-day visit to Pyongyang that’s expected to focus on how to ease a standoff over North Korea’s nuclear ambitions and restart talks between Pyongyang and Washington. (South Korea Presidential Blue House/Yonhap via AP)

  • South Korea's national security director Chung Eui-yong, front, walks to board an aircraft as he leaves for Pyongyang at a military airport in Seongnam, south of Seoul, Monday, March 5, 2018. A group of high-level South Korean officials has left for North Korea for talks on North Korea's nuclear program and ways to help resume talks between Pyongyang and Washington. (Jung Yeon-je/Pool Photo via AP) 050807+0000



Associated Press
Tuesday, March 06, 2018

SEOUL, South Korea — North Korean leader Kim Jong Un grins, just on the verge of a belly laugh, as he grasps the hand of a visiting South Korean official. He sits at a wide conference table and beams as the envoys look on deferentially. He smiles broadly again at dinner, his wife at his side, the South Koreans seeming to hang on his every word.

Kim is used to being the center of gravity in a country that his family has ruled with unquestioned power since 1948, but the chance to play the senior statesman on the Korean Peninsula with a roomful of visiting South Koreans has afforded the autocratic leader a whole new raft of propaganda and political opportunities. He’ll get another major chance to shine next month: Seoul says that Kim has agreed to hold a summit meeting — the rivals’ third-ever — with South Korean President Moon Jae-in.

The photos released by North Korean state media on Tuesday showing Kim meeting with Moon’s envoys on Monday evening are all the more remarkable coming just months after a barrage of North Korean weapons tests and threats against Seoul and Washington had many fearing war.

Kim can be seen in a North Korean TV video smiling and laughing, proposing a toast at the dinner reception, and waving as two limousines carrying the South Korean delegates left the main building of the ruling Workers’ Party.

The extraordinary images spread rapidly across the southern part of the peninsula a day after the North said Kim had an “openhearted talk” with 10 envoys for Moon. Kim reportedly expressed his desire to “write a new history of national reunification” during a dinner that the South Korean government said lasted about four hours.

The meeting marked the first time South Korean officials have met with the young North Korean leader in person since he took power after his dictator father’s death in late 2011. It’s the latest sign that the Koreas are trying to mend ties after one of the tensest years in a region that seems to be permanently on edge. The South Korean delegation led by presidential national security director Chung Eui-yong returned to the South on Tuesday and announced the Kim-Moon summit planned for next month. Chung’s trip was the first known high-level visit by South Korean officials to the North in about a decade.

Given the robust history of bloodshed, threats and animosity on the Korean Peninsula, there is considerable skepticism over whether the Koreas’ apparent warming relations will lead to lasting peace. North Korea, some believe, is trying to use improved ties with the South to weaken U.S.-led international sanctions and pressure, and to provide domestic propaganda fodder for Kim.

But each new development — and especially a summit — raises the possibility that the rivals can use the momentum from the good feelings created during North Korea’s participation in the South’s Pyeongchang Winter Olympics last month to ease a standoff over North Korea’s nuclear ambitions and restart talks between the North and the United States.


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