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N Korea at crossroads

Kim Jong Un tells Moon 'Singapore summit stabilized region'

South Korean leader looks to persuade North to act in Pyongyang visit

South Korean President Moon Jae-in walks with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un upon arrival in Pyongyang, North Korea on Sept. 18.  (Pyongyang Press Corps)

SEOUL/TOKYO -- South Korean President Moon Jae-in began a three-day visit to Pyongyang on Tuesday, meeting with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in a fresh effort to revive the stalled denuclearization process.

Moon is leading a delegation of business leaders as well as government officials. The delegation flew into Pyongyang on Tuesday morning, in time for a luncheon. This was followed by talks between the leaders in the afternoon.

Kim welcomed Moon and the rest of the delegation at the airport in Pyongyang.

As Moon and South Korean first lady Kim Jung-sook stepped out of the presidential plane at 10:09 a.m., Kim and his wife, Ri Sol Ju, waited on the tarmac. Kim greeted Moon with a big smile and the men embraced.

Kim's sister, Kim Yo Jong, was also present at the airport, along with Kim Yong Nam, head of the North Korean parliament, and Choe Ryong Hae, vice chairman of the ruling party.

A large crowd gathered, including men dressed in suits and women in traditional clothing. Some waved North Korean flags while others held the Korean unification flag as they chanted "manse," a Korean cheer, to welcome the arriving delegation.

At the start of the talks, Kim praised Moon for his role in facilitating the first U.S.-North Korean summit, held in Singapore in June. "Thanks to that, the political situation in the region has stabilized and I expect more advanced results."

"This process has been based on Chairman Kim's decision," Moon responded. "I express my respect for Chairman Kim's determination to open a new era."

After the talks on Tuesday, another round of discussions is scheduled for Wednesday morning, with the outcome to be announced later that day. The delegation is to return to Seoul on Thursday.

This is the third time Moon and Kim have come together this year. The first meeting -- the first inter-Korean summit in more than a decade -- took place in April in Panmunjom, a border village in the Demilitarized Zone separating the countries. The two leaders agreed to work toward a peace agreement to formally end the Korean War, which was suspended by an armistice in 1953.

They met again in Panmunjom in May, as South Korea tried to maintain momentum for U.S.-North Korean diplomacy and defuse tensions sparked by the North's nuclear and ballistic missile tests last year.

The diplomacy drive culminated in the U.S.-North Korean summit. In talks with U.S. President Donald Trump, Kim renewed his commitment to the "complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula."

So far, however, there has been little visible progress toward that goal, as Pyongyang insists the U.S. should first sign a peace agreement declaring an end to the Korean War.

Nikkei staff writer Sotaro Suzuki in Seoul contributed to this report.

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