South Korean Delegation Heads to North Korea, With Eyes on Direct US-NK Talks

Delegation will travel to US immediately after two-day Pyongyang visit

South Korea has appointed a ten member delegation of diplomats, led by the head of the National Security Office and the nation’s intelligence chief, who have been dispatched to North Korea for two days worth of talks to begin on Monday.

Kim Yo Jong shakes hands with South Korea’s President Moon during the Winter Olympics

The deployment is South Korea’s attempt both to negotiate a possible visit by President Moon Jae-in to Pyongyang in the future, and more importantly to try to bolster the possibility of direct talks between the United States and North Korea, which North Korea has previously said they are in favor of.

South Korea says the delegation, after returning from North Korea, will travel to the US to brief American officials on the progress in the talks. US officials are being very cool on the idea of talks, though they have not specifically criticized South Korea for pursuing the effort.

This suggests that the North Korea visit itself is less about talks with the North Koreans, as such, than about the visit to the US that will follow, and are mostly an attempt by the pro-diplomacy South Korean government to prove to the US that direct negotiations are possible and warranted.

It may be an uphill battle for South Korea’s delegation to sell the Trump Administration on talks, however, as those within the administration who’ve express support for unconditional talks, like Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, have been very publicly repudiated by President Trump, and while the president is not publicly criticizing the South Koreans, he likewise has shown little inclination toward compromise on the matter.

Author: Jason Ditz

Jason Ditz is Senior Editor for He has 20 years of experience in foreign policy research and his work has appeared in The American Conservative, Responsible Statecraft, Forbes, Toronto Star, Minneapolis Star-Tribune, Providence Journal, Washington Times, and the Detroit Free Press.