SEOUL, Feb 26 (Reuters) - South Korea said on Monday it hopes for “constructive” talks between North Korea and the United States, a day after a delegation from the North told South Korean President Moon Jae-in that Pyongyang was open to talks with Washington.
“We hope constructive talks will begin between North Korea and the United States through an appropriate opportunity,” said Baik Tae-hyun, spokesman of South Korea’s Ministry of Unification.
The North Korean delegation, led by former military intelligence chief Kim Yong Chol who is accused of being behind a deadly 2010 attack on a South Korean warship, is widely expected to meet with other South Korean government officials on Monday before leaving Tuesday.
Baik said no events linked to the delegation had been confirmed yet. North Korea has denied all allegations linked to the torpedoed warship, which killed 46 sailors.
The delegation met with Moon on Sunday in Pyeongchang, site of the Winter Olympics, and later attended a dinner hosted by Unification Minister Cho Myong-gyon where participants from both sides agreed to continue cooperation in boosting ties between the two Koreas, the unification ministry said in a statement.
Kim Yong Chol and his delegation will leave on Tuesday, just as North and South Korean officials gather on the North’s side of the Panmunjom truce village to discuss Pyongyang’s attendance at the Pyeongchang Winter Paralympics.
A total of 299 North Koreans who were in South Korea for the Winter Olympics, including a cheering squad, returned to the North on Monday.
The White House has said any talks with North Korea must lead to an end to its nuclear programme, and that its sanctions on the North would continue. Washington announced on Friday it was imposing its largest package of sanctions to pressure North Korea to give up its nuclear and missile programmes.
North Korea on Sunday condemned the latest round of sanctions imposed by the United States, accusing it of trying to undermine an improvement in inter-Korean relations during the Winter Olympics, state media said in a statement.
North Korea has not fired any missiles since November last year but it defends the weapons programmes as essential to deter U.S. aggression. (Reporting by Christine Kim; Editing by Michael Perry)