South Korea's presidential office Cheong Wa Dae is set to announce President Moon Jae-in's special envoys to North Korea on Sunday for a high-stakes trip aimed at fostering cross-border rapprochement and dialogue between Pyongyang and Washington.
Moon has picked National Intelligence Service (NIS) chief Suh Hoon and National Security Office (NSO) head Chung Eui-yong as his emissaries to the communist state, a senior presidential aide said Saturday.
In a phone call Thursday, Moon told his U.S. counterpart Donald Trump that he would soon send a special envoy to Pyongyang to reciprocate the Seoul visit by the North Korean leader Kim Jong-un's sister during the PyeongChang Winter Olympics.
NIS chief Suh is noted for his role in arranging two landmark inter-Korean summits, in 2000 and 2007, and has played a key role in various inter-Korean negotiations, communication and cooperative projects.
Chung, Moon's top security adviser, has played a central role in maintaining close coordination with Trump's national security adviser, H.R. McMaster.
The pair are expected to visit the North this week. They are likely to deliver Moon's letter to North Korean leader Kim Jong-un and discuss Kim's recent offer for a summit with Moon.
Kim's sister Yo-jong delivered her brother's invitation for Moon to visit Pyongyang at an early date. In response, Moon called for joint efforts to foster an "environment" for an inter-Korean summit, which would mean progress in denuclearization efforts and the North Korea-U.S. relations.
Hammering away at its "maximum pressure" campaign, Washington has persistently demanded that Pyongyang demonstrate its willingness to denuclearize first if it wants to engage in talks.
In an apparent rejection of such a demand, the North's foreign ministry said Saturday it would never "beg" for dialogue, though it is willing to "diplomatically and peacefully" resolve issues with Washington through dialogue and negotiations.
It remains to be seen whether Seoul's efforts to broker dialogue between Pyongyang and Washington will bear fruit, as Washington has continued to irk the reclusive state with a new package of sanctions and ratcheted-up criticism of its human rights violations.
But observers say Pyongyang might seek a loosening of the current sanctions region through its charm offensive toward Seoul, as the crippling sanctions could worsen its economic hardships and erode public loyalty for the North's dynastic ruler. (Yonhap)