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South Korean Envoys Head to US to Discuss North Korean Offer


South Korea's national security advisor Chung Eui-yong (L) and spy chief Suh Hoon (R) arrive at Incheon airport, west of Seoul, on March 8, 2018 to leave for Washington.

Two South Korean envoys are heading to the United States to brief Trump administration officials about their talks with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.

Chung Eui-yong, the head of the National Security Office, left Seoul Thursday accompanied by National Intelligence Service Chief Suh Hoon. Chung and Suh are expected to discuss their meeting with Kim this week in Pyongyang with Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster.

FILE - North Korean leader Kim Jong Un shakes hands with Chung Eui-yong, who led a special delegation of South Korea's president, in this photo released by North Korea's Korean Central News Agency, March 6, 2018.
FILE - North Korean leader Kim Jong Un shakes hands with Chung Eui-yong, who led a special delegation of South Korea's president, in this photo released by North Korea's Korean Central News Agency, March 6, 2018.

According to Chung Eui-yong, the North Korean leader unexpectedly offered to suspend testing its arsenal of nuclear and ballistic missiles while it engages directly with the United States to end his country's nuclear weapons program — as long as North Korea's security was guaranteed.

The rival Korean nations also agreed to hold a major summit in late April in the border village of Panmunjom.

Speaking to reporters Thursday in Addis Ababa, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said the U.S. needs to be "very clear-eyed and realistic" about direct U.S.-North Korean talks.

Ethiopia's Minister of Foreign Affairs Workneh Gebeyehu (center R) walks the red carpet with U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson as he arrives to begin a six-day trip in Africa, landing at Addis Ababa International Airport in Addis Ababa, March 7, 2018.
Ethiopia's Minister of Foreign Affairs Workneh Gebeyehu (center R) walks the red carpet with U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson as he arrives to begin a six-day trip in Africa, landing at Addis Ababa International Airport in Addis Ababa, March 7, 2018.

"I don't know yet until we are able to meet ourselves face to face with representatives of North Korea whether the conditions are right to even begin thinking about negotiations," Tillerson said. "And that's kind of the current state of play.''

President Donald Trump has expressed cautious optimism, saying earlier this week that Pyongyang appeared to be "sincere" in its offer to engage in talks.

After their meetings in Washington, Chung will travel to China and Russia to brief officials there about North Korea's offer, while Suh will travel to Japan. The three nations, along with South Korea and the United States, have been negotiating with Pyongyang for several years to end its nuclear weapons program. The talks have stalled since 2008.

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