The leaders of North and South Korea are due to meet at a summit of the two countries next month, Seoul’s envoy has said after a rare trip to Pyongyang.

North Korean leader Kim Jong-un also said he was willing to talk to the US about getting rid of nuclear weapons, he said.

There have been previous programmes to freeze nuclear weapons, but the North has failed to keep to its commitments.

The two countries also agreed to open a hotline between the two leaders.

The announcement follows a rare visit to Pyongyang by senior South Korean officials, who had dinner with the normally reclusive leader on Monday.

They were the first officials from Seoul to meet Mr Kim since he came to power.

The trip was part of a wave of rapprochement moves surrounding last month’s Winter Olympics.

South Korea commented only briefly on the meeting, saying the visit was “not disappointing” and the two sides had reached a “satisfactory agreement” on holding future talks. The special envoys returned to Seoul on Tuesday morning, Yonhap news agency said.

The delegation is expected to visit Washington later this week to brief US officials on their talks in the North.

The US has said it is “cautiously optimistic” about improving North-South contacts, but ruled out formal talks with Pyongyang unless it is ready to give up its nuclear weapons. Throughout the Olympics the US maintained that North Korean gestures of rapprochement would carry little weight without such a commitment.

Kim Jong-un has met very few foreign officials since he became leader in 2011 and the last time envoys from the South visited Pyongyang was in 2007.

So the sight of a southern delegation smiling, shaking hands and sitting down for dinner with him is significant.

Among the delegation were intelligence chief Suh Hoon and National Security Adviser Chung Eui-yong.

They were aiming to capitalise on the reduced tensions after the Games, which saw the Koreas march together under a single flag.

The hope is that future formal talks will break the diplomatic standoff between the US and North Korea and persuade North Korea to abandon its nuclear weapons, something it has fiercely resisted despite ever-increasing punitive sanctions.

The North’s KCNA news agency said Mr Kim had “warmly welcomed” the delegates and held an “openhearted talk” with them.

They passed on a letter from South Korean President Moon Jae-in in which he invited Mr Kim to attend further talks.

KCNA said Mr Kim had “exchanged views and made a satisfactory agreement” on the letter and gave orders for it to be acted on.

The dinner, which lasted four hours, also featured Ri Sol-ju, Mr Kim’s wife who rarely appears at official events, and his sister Kim Yo-jong, who was part of a North Korean delegation to the Pyeongchang Olympics.

The South’s response to the apparently cordial meeting is likely to remain muted until the delegates return to Seoul.

Officials have stressed the talks were only preliminary but the parties had “somewhat shared” views on some issues.

When asked whether nuclear disarmament had been discussed, a senior officials from Mr Moon’s office said “I assume so”, the Yonhap news agency reports.


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