t appears that the outreach to South Korea by North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un, which began in the lead-up to and during the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, did not end with the Olympics closing ceremony. Kim Jong-un has just hosted talks with a high-level delegation from South Korea, led by its national security director Chung Eui-yong. The South Korean delegation came away believing that these talks have borne some fruit. A possible summit meeting between Kim Jong-un and South Korean President Moon Jae-in was discussed, which could occur in late April at the so-called Peace House, which is located on the South Korean side of Panmunjom in the demilitarized zone. In the meantime, the two Koreas have reportedly agreed to set up a telephone hotline between the leaders of both countries.
The South Koreans also indicated that North Korea would agree to halt tests of its nuclear weapons and missiles in conjunction with opening talks with the United States on the denuclearization issue. According to Chung Eui-yong, the North Koreans are looking for a credible security guarantee and the end to military threats against it, in which case they believed they would not need to keep their nuclear arsenal. He claimed that North Korea was interested “in an open-ended dialogue to discuss the issue of denuclearization and to normalize relations with North Korea.” Notably, Kim Jong-un is said to have withdrawn, at least for now, his insistence that the United States and South Korea suspend their joint military exercises as a precondition to any negotiations. “Kim Jong-un simply said he could understand why the joint exercises must resume in April on the same scale as before,” Mr. Chung declared. “But he said he expected them to be readjusted if the situation on the Korean Peninsula stabilizes in the future.”