U.S. media outlet CNN reported that North Korean and U.S. officials, including Central Intelligence Agency Director Mike Pompeo, have been holding "secret, direct talks" to prepare for a summit between U.S. President Donald Trump and North Korea leader Kim Jong Un. Trump previously agreed to meet Kim in May.
"We can't really make a comment on the report, even if we know something," a Cheong Wa Dae official who declined to be identified said. "But if such things are happening, it looks positive and it's a good sign that they are talking."
Skepticism on the Trump-Kim summit has been rising recently, as nothing had been reported about preparations for the historic meeting. Trump's naming of John Bolton, one of the most hawkish U.S. voices on foreign policy, as his new national security adviser also raised concerns.
However, with the latest reports on the U.S.-North Korea meeting, South Korea's presidential office expressed a degree of relief, the official insider said.
The report is also expected to give energy to South Korea's President Moon Jae-in to pursue his road map on the North Korea nuclear problem, since both U.S. and North Korea appeared to have suggested that they're willing to sit at the negotiation table.
Although some Japanese media sources have called for six-party talks, a Cheong Wae Dae official said Friday that such a meeting can be discussed after the inter-Korean summit and the U.S.-North Korea summit, and perhaps also after a trilateral summit of South, North Korean leaders and the U.S. president.
Local pundits suggest that Cheong Wa Dae's latest reaction shows that Moon wants to solve the issue of the North's nuclear program through upcoming summits instead of the six-party talks.
Moon's plan apparently seeks a comprehensive solution to the nuclear issue through a top-down approach.
Experts said that it's also meaningful that Pompeo, considered a hard-liner in his own right, has set up a team to prepare for the Trump-Kim meeting. This suggests that Trump is willing to have the summit with Kim whether he has foreign policy hawks on his side or not.