SEOUL • Seoul's top national security officials yesterday headed to the United States, their first stop in President Moon Jae In's campaign to rally international support in engaging North Korea.
National Security Office chief Chung Eui Yong and National Intelligence Service Director Suh Hoon were bound for Washington on a four-day trip to win US support for the recent inter-Korean agreement.
Earlier in the day, Mr Moon stressed the importance of the role the US plays in inter-Korean relations. "Two days ago, the special envoys returned from Pyongyang. It was a big step in denuclearisation and peace on the Korean Peninsula," Mr Moon said at an event held north of Seoul.
"It is the result brought through inter-Korean dialogue and the strong support of the US," he added.
Mr Moon's five-member special delegation, led by Mr Chung, returned to the South on Tuesday after meeting North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. During their visit, the envoys reached a number of agreements, including plans for an inter-Korean summit at the end of April and cessation of nuclear and missile tests while the two Koreas are engaged in talks.
The North also expressed willingness to talk with the US, without any preconditions or demands from Seoul and its allies.
Ahead of the North Korean trip, Seoul officials said the US, as well as China, Japan and Russia will be briefed on the results of the trip.
On the trip to the US, Mr Chung and Mr Suh will meet their US counterparts and possibly US President Donald Trump and Vice-President Mike Pence.
According to the presidential Blue House, Mr Chung's first meeting will be with top US intelligence and security officials, followed by talks with heads of US government agencies concerned with North Korean issues. "The most urgent issue is to facilitate talks between the US and North Korea," Mr Chung said ahead of his departure from Incheon International Airport.
Asked about media reports claiming that Mr Kim had said that North Korea could halt the operations of the nuclear facility in Yongbyon, Mr Chung said it was too early to discuss such details.
Mr Moon's top national security adviser declined to comment about the message he plans to deliver to the US. "The message to the US is focused on conveying the sincerity and the intentions of Kim," a high-level Blue House official told reporters yesterday on condition of anonymity, adding that it is too early to discuss details.
Mr Chung and Mr Suh, however, are thought to be travelling to the US with a message from Mr Kim. After their return to Seoul, Mr Moon's special envoys said that they have "North Korea's position that will be delivered to the US".
Meanwhile, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said yesterday that the US is "a long way" from entering negotiations with North Korea about its nuclear programme.
THE KOREA HERALD/ASIA NEWS NETWORK, BLOOMBERG