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Kim Jong-un’s Sister to Meet With South Korean Officials at Border

Category: Asia,World

SEOUL, South Korea — A letter from Kim Jong-un, the North Korean leader, expressing his condolences on the death of a former South Korean first lady will be delivered to South Korean officials at the countries’ border on Wednesday by Mr. Kim’s sister, officials said.

The meeting between Mr. Kim’s sister, Kim Yo-jong, and the South’s national security adviser, Chung Eui-yong, who was to receive the letter, will be a rare high-level contact between the Koreas at a time when talks over the North’s nuclear program have stalled, although neither side said the two would hold substantial discussions.

The former first lady, Lee Hee-ho, who died on Monday, had visited North Korea a few times and once met Mr. Kim. Her husband, the late South Korean president Kim Dae-jung, championed the so-called sunshine policy of encouraging political reconciliation and economic cooperation with North Korea.

Ms. Lee, who was also a prominent campaigner for women’s rights in the South, accompanied her husband to Pyongyang, the North Korean capital, in 2000, when he met with Kim Jong-il, who was then the North’s leader, in the first-ever summit talks between leaders of the two Koreas. When Kim Jong-il died in 2011, Ms. Lee returned to Pyongyang for his funeral, where she met Kim Jong-un, his son and successor.

North Korea had also sent a delegation to South Korea for Kim Dae-jung’s funeral in 2009. Such history led the South Korean news media to speculate this week that Kim Jong-un would send another delegation for Ms. Lee’s funeral on Friday.

Instead, North Korea proposed sending Mr. Kim’s sister to the inter-Korean border on Wednesday to deliver his letter, as well as flowers. South Korea decided to send Mr. Chung and other senior officials to the border to receive her.

Mr. Kim sent his sister to the South as a special envoy last year, and there was speculation that she might bring other messages from him on Wednesday intended for the South’s president, Moon Jae-in.

Mr. Moon’s effort to broker a peace and denuclearization deal between North Korea and the United States has been jeopardized since February, when talks between Kim Jong-un and President Trump in Hanoi, Vietnam, abruptly ended. But he is eager to revive his role, saying in April that he would meet with Mr. Kim at any time or place to discuss how to break the stalemate.

North Korea has been unreceptive, demanding instead that South Korea defy the United States and push for the expansive inter-Korean economic projects that Mr. Moon says he wants. Mr. Moon’s government has said it agrees with Washington that such projects cannot proceed until Pyongyang takes meaningful steps toward denuclearization and international sanctions on the North are lifted.

During a state visit to Finland this week, Mr. Moon said he believed that official dialogue would resume soon and that preparatory contacts were underway.

“There have been fears that dialogue remained stalemated since the Hanoi meeting ended without an agreement,” Mr. Moon said. “But President Trump and Chairman Kim Jong-un continue to express mutual trust and a willingness for dialogue.”

On Tuesday, Mr. Trump said he had “received a beautiful letter from Kim Jong-un” on Monday.

“I can’t show you the letter, obviously, but it was a very personal, very warm, very nice letter,” he said. “We have a very good relationship together. Now I can confirm it because of the letter I got yesterday. And I think — you know, I think that something will happen that’s going to be very positive.”


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