In Possible Breakthrough, North Korea Open To Talks With U.S. On Denuclearization : The Two-Way South Korean officials returning from a two-day visit to Pyongyang say North Korean leader Kim Jong Un is willing to discuss giving up his nuclear weapons with the U.S.
NPR logo In Possible Breakthrough, North Korea Open To Talks With U.S. On Denuclearization

In Possible Breakthrough, North Korea Open To Talks With U.S. On Denuclearization

In this handout image provided by the South Korean Presidential Blue House, Chung Eui-yong (left), head of the presidential National Security Office, shakes hands with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un during their meeting on Monday in Pyongyang. Handout/Getty Images hide caption

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Handout/Getty Images

In this handout image provided by the South Korean Presidential Blue House, Chung Eui-yong (left), head of the presidential National Security Office, shakes hands with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un during their meeting on Monday in Pyongyang.

Handout/Getty Images

Updated at 2:50 p.m. ET

North Korea says it is willing to discuss denuclearizing the Korean Peninsula with the United States, a key requirement laid out by the Trump administration as a precondition for talks with Pyongyang.

South Korean officials who returned from a two-day visit to the North Korean capital reportedly brought back the communication. The North also said it was willing to send a delegation for dialogue with the South next month at the border village of Panmunjom.

"North Korea has clearly expressed its intention for denuclearization on the Korean peninsula, and if there is no military threat and North Korea's regime security is promised, they have clarified that there is no reason to hold nuclear weapons," South Korean President Moon Jae-in's office said.

Taken at face value, the sudden shift would mark a major diplomatic breakthrough following last year's heated rhetoric, with Pyongyang threatening the U.S. with ballistic missiles and President Trump promising to rain "fire and fury" on the North. However, the North has yet to corroborate the South Korean statement.

Kim made the offer during a meeting with Moon's special envoy in Pyongyang, and NPR's Elise Hu reports that the surprise change in position includes a promise to temporarily suspend nuclear and missile tests while negotiations were underway.

The United States current has 28,500 troops stationed in South Korea, a legacy of the 1950-53 Korean War. That conflict ended with a truce, but no peace treaty — something that has kept the two Koreas on a war footing ever since.

Last month, White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said in a statement, "the international community broadly agree that denuclearization must be the result of any dialogue with North Korea."

However, in a Tuesday morning tweet, the president said: "Possible progress being made in talks with North Korea. For the first time in many years, a serious effort is being made by all parties concerned. The World is watching and waiting! May be false hope, but the U.S. is ready to go hard in either direction!"

Hours later, Vice President Mike Pence issued a statement saying, "Whichever direction talks with North Korea go, we will be firm in our resolve. The United States and our allies remain committed to applying maximum pressure on the Kim regime to end their nuclear program. All options are on the table and our posture toward the regime will not change until we see credible, verifiable, and concrete steps toward denuclearization."

And in the afternoon, Trump, speaking in the Oval Office, said he was encouraged by the apparent diplomatic progress. "We have come certainly a long way, at least rhetorically, with North Korea," he told reporters.

"The statements coming out of South Korea and North Korea have been very positive. That would be a great thing for the world," he said.

"Hopefully we'll go in the very very peaceful, beautiful path," the president said. "We're prepared to go whichever path is necessarily. I think we're having very good dialogue, and we're going to certainly find out pretty soon what's happening, but we have made progress, there's no question about it."

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