South Korea plans to go ahead with scheduled inter-Korean talks in the North Korean capital next week, just days after Pyongyang reportedly told a U.S. official that the North possesses nuclear weapons.
The trip by a five-member delegation from South Korea's Unification Ministry will be the first diplomatic approach to Pyongyang since the revelation about North Korea's nuclear weapons earlier this week.
During three-way talks in Beijing, a North Korean negotiator reportedly told Assistant U.S. Secretary of State James Kelly that North Korea has already produced nuclear weapons.
After Mr. Kelly briefed South Korean officials on the talks, Seoul's foreign minister, Yoon Young-kwan, said that if it was true the North had nuclear weapons, it would "constitute a serious violation of peace on the Korea peninsula" and in the region.
Word of Pyongyang's disclosure also comes as a blow to of the South's new president, Roh Moo-hyun, who hopes to maintain a policy of engagement with the North. But the Roh administration decided to send the delegation to Pyongyang as scheduled on Sunday. South Korean officials said they would use the meetings next week to push their counterparts to abide by a decade-old commitment to a nuclear-free Korean Peninsula.
Mr. Kelly flew to Tokyo Saturday to brief Japanese officials on the Beijing talks.
Officials in Washington have left open the possibility of further talks with North Korea and have indicated they hope that Japan and South Korea will also be able participate if such talks do materialize.
Seoul also says a meeting may be called soon of the Trilateral Coordination and Oversight Group, a strategy group comprising South Korea, Japan and the United States.
One possible course of action being considered by Washington is to seek United Nations sanctions against North Korea, a move Pyongyang has said would be tantamount to "a declaration of war."
The official North Korean news agency says the North Korean delegate put forward a "new bold proposal" at the Beijing talks, but did not say what the proposal was. After the briefing from Mr. Kelly, one South Korean official said the North had proposed "no new ideas," and officials in Washington have also dismissed the notion that Pyongyang had proposed anything significant.