South Korean President Moon Jae-in left for Pyongyang on Tuesday for a historic summit with Kim Jong-un aiming to mediate stalled U.S.-North Korea nuclear talks and move forward inter-Korean relations.
Moon's flight left Seoul Air Base in Seongnam at around 8:40 a.m., also carrying some 110 other delegates and staff members, including top business leaders. An advance team of around 90 South Korean officials arrived in Pyongyang on Sunday.
The South Korean president was set to arrive in the North Korean capital around 10 a.m., his chief of staff Im Jong-seok said earlier.
Moon's trip comes amid a deadlock in denuclearization talks between the United States and North Korea.
The South Korean leader said he will seek to mediate a breakthrough in the denuclearization talks during his three-day trip to the North.
"One (objective) is to continue developing inter-Korean relations, and the other is to promote North Korea-U.S. dialogue aimed at denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula," Moon said while meeting with a group of North Korea experts and special advisers last week.
Shortly before his departure from his office Cheong Wa Dae, the South Korean president said his North Korea visit would be a success if it could help restart the U.S.-North Korea dialogue, according to Yoon Young-chan, senior secretary to the president for public relations.
"(My) North Korea trip would have a great meaning if it could lead to the resumption of North Korea-U.S. dialogue," Moon was quoted as telling his aides before heading to Seoul Air Base.
The denuclearization talks stalled after U.S. President Donald Trump called off a scheduled North Korea trip by his top diplomat, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, citing what he called a lack of progress in the denuclearization process.
Kim reaffirmed his commitment to denuclearize while meeting with Moon's special envoy and top security adviser Chung Eui-yong in Pyongyang this month.
The North Korean leader even expressed hope to complete denuclearization before Trump's first four-year presidency ends in January 2021, according to Chung.
Shortly after, Kim sent what the White House called a "very warm" and "very positive" letter to Trump, which has apparently made the U.S. president consider holding a second U.S.-North Korea summit with Kim.
The South Korean president will have at least two encounters with the North Korean leader in Pyongyang, with their first official talks scheduled to be held shortly after Moon's arrival in the North Korean capital.
Moon will attend a welcome dinner later in the day that could possibly be hosted by Kim.
The two leaders will hold talks again on Wednesday before Moon attends a farewell dinner, again possibly hosted by Kim.
The Moon-Kim summit will mark the third of its kind since Moon took office in May 2017. The two leaders earlier met on April 27 and May 26 in the border village of Panmunjom that sits directly on the inter-Korean border.
Their meeting will also mark the fifth inter-Korean summit ever held. The first two rounds were held in 2000 and 2007, both in Pyongyang, involving then-South Korean presidents Kim Dae-jung and Roh Moo-hyun, in that order, and North Korea's late former leader Kim Jong-il. (yonhap)