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The Latest: North Korea leader meets South Korean envoys

March 5, 2018

In this Feb. 21, 2018, photo, South Korea's national security director Chung Eui-yong speaks at the National Assembly in Seoul, South Korea. President Moon Jae-in will send a delegation led by Chung to North Korea on Monday, March 5, 2018, for talks on how to ease nuclear tensions and help arrange the restart of dialogue between Pyongyang and Washington, officials said Sunday. (Hong Hyo-shick/Newsis via AP)

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — The Latest on a South Korean delegation visiting North Korea for talks (all times local):

7:20 a.m.

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has held an “open-hearted talk” with envoys for South Korean President Moon Jae-in.

It marks the first time South Korean officials have met with the North Korean leader in person since he took power after his dictator father’s death in late 2011.

North Korea’s state media said in a dispatch Tuesday that Kim expressed his desire to “write a new history of national reunification” during a dinner Monday.

Given past bloodshed, North Korean weapons tests and threats of war, there’s considerable skepticism over what might come of the Koreas’ warming ties. But there’s also hope they might be able to ease a standoff over North Korea’s nuclear ambitions and restart talks between Pyongyang and Washington.

The North Korean dispatch sought to make Kim look statesmanlike as he welcomed the visiting South Koreans.

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6:20 p.m.

China, North Korea’s closest thing to an ally, is applauding a visit by a South Korean delegation to the North’s capital.

“We believe it is a good thing, and look forward to a positive outcome of the meeting,” foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said at a regularly scheduled news conference Monday.

The South Korean presidential office announced that the envoys will meet Monday evening with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.

China has long called for a resumption of talks between North Korea and other countries embroiled in tensions over the North’s nuclear and missile programs.

China has signed on to tough new United Nations economic sanctions against North Korea, but says those measures should be carefully targeted and serve only as an inducement for negotiations.

“We hope all sides will bear in mind the larger picture of peninsular peace and stability ... and make joint efforts not only for better ties between the North and South but for the early accomplishment of denuclearization and lasting peace and stability on the peninsula,” Geng said.

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6:05 p.m.

Envoys for the South Korean president are to meet with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un at a dinner in the North’s capital.

The announcement was made by President Moon Jae-in’s office shortly after the 10-member South Korean delegation landed in Pyongyang and met with North Korean officials.

The South Korean envoys are to meet with Kim on Monday evening. It isn’t immediately clear what they will discuss or what else is on the itinerary for their two-day visit. Hopes are high that the Koreas can extend the good feelings created by North Korea’s participation in the Winter Olympic Games in Pyeongchang, South Korea.

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5:45 p.m.

Yonhap news agency says a high-level South Korean delegation has arrived in North Korea’s capital for a two-day visit expected to focus on improved relations and how to resolve the standoff over the North’s nuclear program.

Yonhap cited North Korean state radio as saying the 10-member South Korean delegation had arrived at Pyongyang’s airport.

The South Korean delegation, led by presidential national security director Chung Eui-yong , may meet with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.

Before leaving for North Korea, Chung told reporters that he will convey the South Korean president’s hopes for North Korean nuclear disarmament and permanent peace on the Korean Peninsula.

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2:10 p.m.

A group of high-level South Korean officials has left for North Korea for talks on North Korea’s nuclear program and ways to help resume talks between Pyongyang and Washington.

Chung Eui-yong, a special envoy for South Korean President Moon Jae-in, said before his departure Monday that he’ll relay Moon’s hopes for North Korean nuclear disarmament and a permanent peace on the Korean Peninsula.

Chung heads a 10-member delegation that includes intelligence chief Suh Hoon.

Media footage showed Chung and other officials posing for a group photo before boarding a plane at a military airport near Seoul on Monday afternoon.

Chung’s two-day trip may include talks with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. If Kim or other North Korean officials show a willingness to disarm, it could indicate a restart of dialogue between Pyongyang and Washington to defuse the North Korean nuclear standoff.

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