Talks with North Korea must lead to denuclearisation: White House

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South Korean President Moon Jae-in (center), US presidential daughter Ivanka Trump (right) and North Korean delegate Kim Yong-chol (upper right) attend the closing ceremony of Pyeongchang 2018 Winter Olympics. Reuters

SEOUL/WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The White House said any talks with North Korea must lead to an end to its nuclear programme after senior officials from Pyongyang visiting South Korea said on Sunday their government was open to talks with the US.

The North Korean delegation, in Pyeongchang for the closing ceremony of the Winter Olympics, met at an undisclosed location with South Korean President Moon Jae-in, and expressed willingness to meet with the US, Mr Moon’s office said in a statement.

The Pyongyang delegation said developments in relations between the two Koreas and between North Korea and the United States should go hand in hand.

The Olympics gave a boost to recent engagement between the two Koreas after more than a year of sharply rising tensions over the North’s missile program and its sixth and largest nuclear test in defiance of U.N. sanctions.

The US announced on Friday it was imposing its largest package of sanctions aimed at getting North Korea to give up its nuclear and missile programmes.

On Sunday, North Korean state media accused the United States of provoking confrontation on the Korean peninsula with the sanctions.

The White House said its sanctions would continue.

“We will see if Pyongyang’s message today, that it is willing to hold talks, represents the first steps along the path to denuclearisation,” the White House said in a statement.

Yesterday, Mr Moon urged the US and North Korea to both give ground so they can talk and try to resolve the nuclear standoff.

Mr Moon, the North Korean delegation, and Ivanka Trump, US President Donald Trump’s daughter, were among dignitaries who attended the Olympics closing ceremony on Sunday.

Ivanka Trump did not interact with the North Korean delegation, a senior US administration official said. She met Moon on Friday.

North Korea sent former military intelligence chief Kim Yong Chol, an official accused of being behind a deadly 2010 attack on a South Korean warship, to lead its delegation.

The North sent Kim Yo Jong, the younger sister of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, to the opening ceremony.

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