South Korean special envoy flies to North Korea

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un

South Korea's presidential office said it is unsure whether there will be a meeting with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un during the delegation's visit, according to Yonhap.

An authoritarian nation obsessed with big milestones, North Korea will use the celebration for the 70th anniversary of its national founding to glorify Kim Jong Un as a leader who's standing up for a powerful nation surrounded by enemies.

A South Korean official, briefing reporters Thursday on the talks, said the two countries have also agreed to set up a joint liaison office in the North before September 18.

US officials maintain that such a declaration can not come before the North takes more concrete steps toward relinquishing its nukes in a verifiable way.

Chung told reporters Tuesday that his focus would be on setting a date for this month's agreed Moon-Kim summit in Pyongyang as well as discussing "ways to completely denuclearize" the Korean Peninsula.

Once a peace declaration is made, Washington and Seoul could struggle to find other points of leverage.

Any progress could depend on whether Moon's envoys were able to coax a stronger verbal commitment from North Korea on denuclearization to help put the nuclear talks between the United States and Pyongyang back on track.

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North Korea is said to have demanded a timely quid pro quo for its denuclearization efforts while the US has repeatedly vowed to maintain maximum sanctions on the impoverished North until it completely denuclearizes. But Moon's more ambitious ideas, such as joint economic projects and reconnecting cross-border railways, are held back by worldwide sanctions against Pyongyang.

Moon's approval rating, although still above 50 percent, has declined sharply in recent months over a decaying job market.

Cheong Wa Dae officials have highlighted the importance of Moon's scheduled trip to North Korea and his meeting with the North Korean leader in kick-starting the denuclearization process.

"If inter-Korean relations also stagnate, the diplomatic momentum could be lost", he said in an interview.

After their June summit in Singapore, Trump and Kim issued a vague statement about a nuclear-free peninsula without describing when and how it would occur.

Impoverished and isolated North Korea has prioritised its nuclear weapons, achieving remarkable success in recent years.

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