(Bloomberg) -- A North Korean high-level delegation, including its leader’s sister, arrived at the South Korean presidential compound for a lunch with President Moon Jae-in Saturday, in a rare meeting of leaders of the two countries.
The lunch at the Blue House in Seoul comes a day after Moon and Kim Jong Un’s sister enthusiastically cheered on a unified Korean team at the opening ceremony for the Winter Olympics.
Kim Yo Jong, who is representing her brother at the Games, shook hands with Moon and stood with a smile on her face as Korean athletes marched together under a joint flag on Friday night. She’s the first family member of the Kim dynasty to set foot in the south.
Her visit has raised speculation in South Korea of a possible meeting between Moon and Kim Jong Un, which would be the first time leaders of the two countries have met in 11 years. A summit now would risk driving a wedge in the alliance between South Korea and the U.S., which has sought to maximize pressure on North Korea to pressure Kim into giving up his nuclear weapons.
Moon sought to reassure U.S. Vice President Mike Pence that the allies remained in lockstep despite North Korea’s joint appearance at the Olympics. On Friday, Pence said there was “no daylight” between the allies in pushing for denuclearization of the peninsula.
Believed to be in her late 20s, Kim Yo Jong shares the same mother as the North Korean leader and is seen as controlling access to him. While it isn’t known what kind of message she’ll relay to Moon, any move toward a summit is likely to help maintain a temporary break in tensions on the peninsula after a year of missile and nuclear provocations.
“She is likely to propose an invitation to go to Pyongyang to meet with Kim Jong Un,” said Bong Youngshik, a researcher at Yonsei University’s Institute for North Korean Studies in Seoul. “South Korea will be attracted to that idea and Moon would want to keep the momentum after the games.”
Leaders of the two nations have only meet twice since the peninsula was divided in 1948. They are technically still at war.
The last summit was held in October 2007 between Roh Moo-hyun and Kim Jong Il, the father of the current North Korean leader. The pair signed a peace declaration calling to end the armistice with a permanent treaty, but progress stalled and the two sides remain in a stalemate.
The first summit was in June 2000 between Kim Dae-jung, a proponent of the so-called Sunshine Policy, and Kim Jong Il. This led to family reunions until ties soured under conservative President Lee Myung-bak.
Kim Jong Un and his sister grew up together in the capital of Pyongyang and attended the same Swiss boarding school, the Yonhap News Agency has reported. Kim Yo Jong’s promotion last year brought her closer to the center of power in the isolated state.
She has appeared prominently and is seen as the most influential woman along with Kim Jong Un’s wife, Ri Sol Ju, in a country where family ties mean more than any title or rank. Their half-brother, Kim Jong Nam, was murdered in February last year at a Malaysian airport with the chemical weapon VX. North Korea denies it played a role in the attack.
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