North Korea is willing to talk about getting rid of its nuclear weapons but only if its own safety can be guaranteed, South Korea says.
The South says the subject was raised when its officials met with the North’s leader, Kim Jong-un, in Pyongyang on Monday, during a rare visit.
They said Kim is also open to US talks, and would pause weapons testing.
In previous programmes to halt its nuclear ambitions, the North has failed to keep its promises.
The leaders of North and South Korea have also agreed to meet at a summit next month, Seoul’s envoy says.
It will be the first such meeting for more than a decade and the first since Kim Jong-un took power in North Korea.
Kim and South Korean President Moon Jae-in will meet on the heavily fortified border next month, at the truce village of Panmunjom. The two countries also agreed to open a hotline between the leaders.
Throughout February’s Winter Olympics in South Korea, the two countries struck a friendly tone, sending athletes to compete in a joint team and holding talks.
But the US maintained that North Korean gestures of rapprochement would carry little weight without a commitment on nuclear weapons – particularly following last year’s nuclear and missile tests carried out by the North.
The South Korean delegation is expected to visit Washington later this week to brief US officials on their talks in the North.
A statement from the South Korea president’s office said: “The North showed willingness on denuclearisation in the Korean Peninsula. If military threats to the North Korea decrease and regime safety is guaranteed, the North showed that it has no reason to retain nukes.”
The North’s KCNA news agency said Kim had “warmly welcomed” the delegates and held an “openhearted talk” with them.
This is a huge turnaround for North Korea’s young leader, the BBC’s Laura Bicker reported from Seoul.
The United States has said it will only go into formal talks with North Korea if Pyongyang is ready to give up its nuclear weapons.
After the news from the South Korean officials was made public, President Donald Trump tweeted: “The World is watching and waiting!”
“May be false hope, but the US is ready to go hard in either direction!”
Meanwhile, China’s foreign ministry said it hopes the Koreas can continue with efforts to advance reconciliation, Reuters news agency reported.—BBC