PYONGYANG, North Korea - In what came as the latest sign that the Koreans are trying to mend ties after a year of constant threats - the North Korean dictator is said to have engaged in “openhearted talks with a team from Seoul.
According to the North Korean state media, the KCNA news agency, Kim Jong Un said that he wants to "write a new history of national reunification" with South Korea.
Further, Kim Jong Un, who hosted a dinner for the delegates on Monday, reportedly told visiting South Korean envoys that it was his "firm will to vigorously advance" closer ties.
This was the first time South Korean officials have met with the young North Korean leader in person since he took power after his dictator father’s death in late 2011
Further, it came as the latest sign that the Koreas are trying to mend ties after a year of repeated North Korean weapons tests and threats of nuclear war.
For over a couple of years now, the two countries have exchanged threats, amid growing animosity on the Korean Peninsula over North Korea’s nuclear weapons program.
However, relations between the two Koreas warmed following last month's Winter Olympics, which were held in Pyeongchang, South Korea.
South Korean officials said late last week that the country was sending a ten-member delegation to North Korea, which includes two ministerial-level envoys - intelligence chief Suh Hoon and National Security Adviser Chung Eui-yong.
Before the meeting, Eui-yong told reporters that he would deliver President Moon Jae-in's "resolution to maintain the dialogue and improvement in relations between the South and the North... [and] to denuclearize the Korean peninsula.”
KCNA said in a report after the meeting that Kim Jong Un had "warmly welcomed" the delegates and held an "openhearted talk" with them.
The report noted, "Hearing the intention of President Moon Jae-in for a summit from the special envoy of the south side, he [Kim Jong-un] exchanged views and made a satisfactory agreement. He gave the important instruction to the relevant field to rapidly take practical steps for it."
During the two-day visit, the South Korean group is focused on establishing conditions for talks aimed at getting rid of the North's nuclear weapons as well as dialogue between the U.S. and Pyongyang.
Meanwhile, the U.S. has said in a statement that it is "cautiously optimistic" about improving North-South contacts but has ruled out formal talks with Pyongyang unless it is ready to give up its nuclear weapons.
However, North Korea has outrightly rejected the idea.
The South Korean delegation is expected to visit Washington later this week to brief U.S. officials on their talks in the North.
According to some experts, North Korea is trying to use improved ties with the South to weaken U.S.-led international sanctions and pressure, and to provide domestic propaganda fodder for Kim Jong Un.