SEOUL—North Korean leader Kim Jong Un is “unequivocally committed to denuclearization” but feels constrained by international doubts about his true motives, South Korea’s national security adviser said Thursday after returning from a visit to Pyongyang a day earlier.
South Korean national security adviser Chung Eui-yong, who led a special delegation of senior South Korean security officials to the North Korean capital, met with Mr. Kim on Wednesday and shared “in-depth and wide-ranging discussions concerning various pending issues on inter-Korean relations,” he said.
At the Wednesday meeting, which was aimed at reinvigorating stalled diplomatic efforts with North Korea, officials set a date for a third meeting between Mr. Kim and South Korean President Moon Jae-in, this time in Pyongyang from Sept. 18-20.
Mr. Chung said the two Koreas agreed to open a joint liaison office on the north side of the inter-Korean border ahead of the summit meeting. The two Koreas first decided to open such an office during Messrs. Kim and Moon’s first meeting in late April, but setbacks in talks between Washington and Pyongyang have delayed the move.
On the issue of North Korea’s nuclear arsenal, Mr. Chung said Mr. Kim reconfirmed to the South Korean delegation “his determination to completely denuclearize the Korean Peninsula,” but said he expressed frustration that the international community hasn’t acknowledged the practical steps he has taken.
Mr. Kim pointed in particular to North Korea’s destruction in May of its underground nuclear-test site at Punggye-ri, which he said Wednesday was “two-thirds” collapsed, making further tests impossible, according to Mr. Chung.
Mr. Kim also referred to the dismantling of a satellite-launch station that he said meant North Korea could no longer launch long-range missiles there, though experts point out that neither move was verified by international inspectors.
North Korean state media, which issued a separate statement on Thursday, quoted Mr. Kim as saying it was his will “to completely remove the danger of armed conflict and horror of war from the Korean Peninsula and turn it into the cradle of peace without nuclear weapons and free from nuclear threat.”
The South Korean delegation also included Suh Hoon, the director of Seoul’s National Intelligence Service. It was the second trip to Pyongyang this year by Messrs. Chung and Suh, and comes nearly three months after a June summit between President Trump and Mr. Kim.
During the South Korean officials’ previous trip to Pyongyang in March, they shared a banquet with Mr. Kim, who appeared at ease, telling jokes and consuming plenty of alcohol.
That trip paved the way for Mr. Kim’s first summit meeting with Mr. Moon in late April, and his June 12 summit in Singapore with Mr. Trump.
Since then, progress on talks between Washington and Pyongyang has stalled. The North says it is the U.S.’s turn to make the next concession and sign a declaration signaling its intent to formally end the 1950-53 Korean War, which ended in an armistice. The U.S. says it needs to see more moves by Pyongyang toward denuclearization.
During the Wednesday meeting, Messrs. Chung and Suh handed Mr. Kim a letter from Mr. Moon. North Korean state media said Thursday that Mr. Kim read the letter, which “expressed a firm will to wisely overcome many challenges in the future,” and thanked Mr. Moon.
The coming summit will be held about a week after North Korea stages a military parade in central Pyongyang on Sunday to mark the 70th anniversary of the founding of the state. A top lieutenant of Chinese President Xi Jinping will be in attendance for the festivities.
Mr. Chung said the North Korean leader expressed hope that the two Koreas could use the coming summit in Pyongyang as an opportunity to further discuss an end-of-war declaration. Mr. Moon has spoken of his goal of signing such a declaration by the end of the year.
Mr. Kim also went out of his way to praise President Trump on Wednesday, according to Mr. Chung, emphasizing that he had never spoken of Mr. Trump in a negative way, and that there was no change in the trust that the North Korean leader felt toward the U.S. president.
Mr. Kim told Mr. Chung that he believes they could resolve their differences and achieve denuclearization by the end of Mr. Trump’s current term, in early 2021. He also said that an end-of-war declaration wouldn’t affect the U.S. military presence in South Korea, Mr. Chung said.
Mr. Chung said Thursday that Seoul would coordinate closely with the U.S. and would soon brief the U.S. on the special envoys’ visit to Pyongyang. Mr. Chung is set to speak with U.S. national security adviser John Bolton on Thursday.
Write to Jonathan Cheng at firstname.lastname@example.org