March 7, 2018 / 2:47 AM / 3 months ago

South Korean officials to visit Washington with message from North's leader - South Korea official

SEOUL/WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Two senior South Korean officials who met with North Korea’s Kim Jong Un this week will depart for Washington on Thursday to brief U.S. officials on the outcome of their meeting, a South Korean administration official said on Wednesday.

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un shakes hands with a member of the special delegation of South Korea's President in this photo released by North Korea's Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) on March 6, 2018. KCNA/via Reuters

A detailed itinerary has yet to be confirmed, as well as whether they will meet U.S. President Donald Trump, the official told reporters.

National Security Office head Chung Eui-yong, who has close contacts in the United States, and National Intelligence Service chief Suh Hoon, who is known as South Korea’s top North Korea negotiator, will be making the trip. Chung said on Tuesday he had a message from Kim Jong Un he will relay to U.S. officials.

The U.S. State Department said on Tuesday that the United States and South Korea are discussing holding a meeting later this week about potential denuclearisation talks with North Korea.

“The State Department has been speaking with the White House about the proposed upcoming meeting later this week,” State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert told a briefing.

“In terms of the meeting with South Korea and also with the DPRK (North Korea), we don’t have a play-by-play of that just yet. We will wait for the Republic of Korea (South Korea) to come to Washington to be able to brief us on those meetings.”

Chung cited North Korea as saying it would not carry out nuclear or missile tests while talks with the international community were under way. North Korea has not carried out any such tests since last November.

North Korea is also willing to discuss normalising ties with the United States, Chung said.

North Korea seems “sincere” in its apparent willingness to halt nuclear tests if it held denuclearisation talks with the United States, President Donald Trump said on Tuesday as U.S., South Korean and Japanese officials voiced scepticism about any discussions.

After returning from the United States, the South Korean officials will split up and Chung will visit China and Russia, while Suh will head to Japan to speak to officials in the respective countries on the latest detente with North Korea.

Reporting by Christine Kim in SEOUL and Lisa Lambert in WASHINGTON; Editing by Will Dunham and Michael Perry

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