SEOUL (Reuters) – North Korean’s Kim Jong Un greeted Moon Jae-in with hugs and smiles on Tuesday as the South Korean president arrived in Pyongyang to discuss faltering talks on denuclearization and the prospect of officially ending the Korean War.
Hundreds of North Koreans wearing suits and traditional dresses also greeted Moon, carrying flowers and waving Korean peninsula and North Korean flags. A sign behind them read: “We ardently welcome President Moon Jae-in’s visit to Pyongyang!”
The two leaders stepped out of the same black Mercedes vehicle with open-top rear seats to arrive at Paekhwawon State Guest House, where Moon will stay.
The guesthouse was also used by two former South Korean presidents during their own summits with Kim’s father, Kim Jong Il, in 2000 and 2007.
Kim and Moon will hold formal talks from 3:30 pm to 5 pm (0630 to 0800 GMT), Moon’s office said.
The inter-Korean summit, the third between Moon and Kim, will be a litmus test for another meeting Kim has recently proposed to U.S. President Donald Trump.
Trump has asked Moon to be “chief negotiator” between himself and Kim, according to Moon’s aides, after Trump canceled a trip to Pyongyang by his secretary of state last month.
Washington wants to see concrete action toward denuclearization by North Korea before agreeing to a key goal of Pyongyang – declaring an end to the 1950-53 Korean War.
“If North Korea-U.S. dialogue is restarted after this visit, it would have much significance in itself,” Moon said before his departure.
South Korean corporate executives, including Samsung Electronics Vice Chairman Jay Y. Lee and the chiefs of SK Group and LG Group, will meet with North Korean Deputy Prime Minister Ri Ryong Nam, who is in charge of economic affairs.
Tomorrow, Moon and Kim plan to hold a second round of officials talks after which they are expected to unveil a joint statement, and a separate military pact designed to defuse tensions and prevent armed clashes. Moon will return home early Thursday.