North Korean leader Kim Jong Un‘s sister will visit the demilitarised zone (DMZ) separating the North from the South to pay her respects following the death of former South Korean first lady Lee Hee-ho, South Korea has said.
The meeting comes exactly a year after Kim Jong Un and US President Donald Trump agreed to work towards denuclearisation of the Korean Peninsula, at the first United States-North Korea summit in Singapore.
Lee, who died on Monday, was the widow of former President Kim Dae-jung, who in 2000 became the first South Korean leader to visit the North since the 1950-1953 war between the two countries.
Alongside her husband, Lee was a proponent of Korean reunification and visited the North several times, including in 2011 to attend former leader Kim Jong Il’s funeral, during which time she became one of the first South Koreans to meet Kim Jong Un
Kim Yo Jong is expected to deliver a condolence message and flowers during the Wednesday visit, Yonhap news agency reported.
North Korea also sent a delegation to the South following Kim Dae-jung’s death in 2009.
State of inter-Korean relations
Last year saw a number of high-level meetings between the South and North, including three summits between Kim Jong Un and South Korean President Moon Jae-in.
Despite this, the landmark summit in Singapore, and the apparently friendly relationship between Kim Jong Un and Trump, little progress has been made in the last 12 months, with denuclearisation and sanctions being the main sticking points.
Tensions have risen again recently, with North Korea resuming some limited testing of weapons and warning of “truly undesired consequences” if the US was not more flexible.
However, on Tuesday, Trump said he had received a “beautiful” letter from Kim Jong Un, which he told reporters at the White House was “very personal, very warm, very nice,” without giving details of its contents.
There was no mention of the letter in North Korean state media.
Since a second summit in Vietnam collapsed without a recommitment to the general goals outlined in Singapore, North Korea has complained of US sanctions and Kim Jong Un said he would wait until the end of the year before deciding on whether to take a “new path”.
Both sides have said they are open to talks but that the other needs to change its policy. The US says North Korea needs to make verifiable progress towards giving up its nuclear weapons before any sanctions are eased, while North Korea says the US has done nothing to reward steps already taken.
In the weeks leading up to Wednesday’s anniversary, North Korean state media has repeatedly warned that the statement signed there was in danger of being rendered meaningless if the US did not drop demands for North Korea to dismantle its nuclear arsenal.
According to Singapore’s foreign ministry, North Korea’s embassy there had been planning an event to commemorate the summit anniversary and invited Singapore officials, but later cancelled the event.
Still, North Korea has said it “remains unchanged in its stance and will to cherish and implement in good faith” the Singapore statement, which included vague promises to improve relations and eventually pursue the denuclearisation of the Korean Peninsula.