After meeting with the North Korean delegation to the closing ceremonies at the 2018 Winter Olympics, South Korean President Moon Jae-In said in a statement on Sunday that the North was willing to participate in peace talks with the United States.
Moon said the talks should begin "as soon as possible" and that North Korea agree inter-Korean relations and U.S.-North Korean relations, "should develop together, CNN reported.
The meeting occurred on Sunday in Pyeongchang at 5 p.m. local time, shortly before the closing ceremonies began, at an unknown location and lasted for one hour. The chief representative for North Korea was Kim Yong Chol vice chairman of the Party Central Committee, the Washington Post noted.
"President Moon pointed out the urgency to hold dialogue between North Korea and the U.S. in order to fundamentally the resolve the issues on the Korean Peninsula and to improve inter-Korean relations," a statement from South Korea's presidential Blue House said. "The North Korean delegation said that North Korea is willing to have talks with the U.S. and the North agrees that inter-Korean relations and North Korea-U. S. relations should advance together."
Representing the United States at the closing ceremonies was President Donald Trump's daughter and senior adviser Ivanka Trump, who sat next to Moon and his wife during the Olympic Games in the VIP box.
The news comes a couple weeks after Vice President Mike Pence led the U.S. delegation at the opening ceremonies where he appeared stone-faced and refused to stand for Korean athletes from both the North and the South who marched under a unified flag. At the closing ceremonies, the president's daughter had the opposite approach and applauded the joint athletes.
However once Pence left, news broke that he and Moon spoke about coming to the table with North Korea.
As Salon has previously reported, South Korea was told to lead the way, and that the U.S. would follow soon after pending any progress made. It was also reported that Pence was scheduled to secretly meet with North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un's sister, Kim Yo Jong, but that it fell apart when the North Koreans backed out after Pence denounced the regime in the lead up to his trip.
But in Pence's talks with the South Korean president, he made it clear that no pressure on the North would be relieved until denuclearization efforts were made. "Moon assured Pence he would tell the North Koreans clearly that they would not get economic or diplomatic benefits for just talking — only for taking concrete steps toward denuclearization," as Salon has previously reported.
North Korea's willingness to speak with the U.S. is a substantial breakthrough. But it's still unclear how successful talks can actually be if the both the U.S. and North Korea refuse to budge on the issue of letting the nation remain armed with nuclear weapons.