Three top North Korean officials, including the country’s number two man, pay a rare visit to neighboring South despite tense relations between Pyongyang and Seoul.
The North Korean delegation was led by Hwang Pyong-so, vice chairman of North Korea’s National Defense Commission who is said to be the country’s second most important official after leader Kim Jong-un.
The apparent motive for Saturday’s trip was the closing ceremony of the 2014 Asian Games in Incheon, South Korea.
However, the trio went directly from the airport to a meeting with South Korea’s Unification Minister Ryoo Kihl-jae.
“The government hopes that the high level delegation’s attendance at the Asian Games closing ceremony becomes a positive occasion for improved ties between the South and the North,” South Korean Unification Ministry spokesman Lim Byeong-cheol said.
Earlier in 2009, senior North Korean Workers’ Party official Kim Ki Nam and intelligence chief Kim Yang Gon paid their respects to late South Korean President Kim Dae-jung in Seoul.
The recent visit raises hopes of a breakthrough in relations between the two neighbors.
The development comes as the United States and South Korea held their recent joint military exercise on August 18-29, which drew condemnation from the North.
Pyongyang has repeatedly said that the drills are practice for invasion, and that North Korea will take additional measures to demonstrate its might as long as threats from Washington persist.