South Korean President Moon Jae-in announced Sunday he will send a special delegation to North Korea on Monday to discuss inter-Korean relations and possibility of dialogue between Washington and Pyongyang.
In North Korea, it is rare to speak out against leader Kim Jong-un as he and his father and grandfather - former leaders of the regime - have established a cult of personality around them.
The decision to use a special aircraft, most like one of the private military jets used by President Moon Jae-in according to administration sources, for the delegation was unrelated to US sanctions that bar vessels and aircraft that have visited North Korea from entering the United States for six months, the official said.
During the PyeongChang Olympics, the North sent athletes and high-ranking officials to the South.
The 10-member delegation, led by Chung Eui-yong, the chief of the presidential National Security Office, will depart from Seoul Airport in Seongnam, south of Seoul, at 2 p.m.
American President Donald Trump said in late February that dialogue with the North could happen under the "right conditions," with Washington officials repeatedly insisting Pyongyang must denuclearize if it wants to escape ongoing sanctions and the threat of military action.
Seoul says this round of talks will also focus on improving ties on the Korean Peninsula.
Washington has lately signaled an openness to exploratory talks with Pyongyang but maintains that North Korea must be willing to discuss dismantling its nuclear arsenal.
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North Korea, however, said in a statement Sunday that it considers "any type of blockade an act of war against us". North Korea's clearly shown intention to denuclearize would be a prerequisite to starting full-fledged talks.
Moon, who was elected previous year after his conservative predecessor was ousted in a corruption scandal, has been proponent of dialogue and engagement with North Korea since his days as a presidential aide in the 2000s.
The delegation is expected to hold talks that would pave the way for a possible summit meeting between the leaders of South and North Korea after Kim Jong-un last month invited Mr Moon to visit Pyongyang.
However, the USA has ruled out any possibility of talks before the North takes steps towards denuclearisation, and imposed what Trump hailed as the "toughest ever" sanctions on Kim's regime late last month. You have to de-nuke.' So let's see what happens.
A North Korean Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesperson told the official Korean Central News Agency on Saturday that the country wouldn't accept U.S. preconditions.
North Korea greatly accelerated its testing of ballistic missiles past year and now claims it can deliver a nuclear weapon anywhere in the United States. On his return home, Pence revealed that the U.S.is ready to talk to the North Koreans whenever they are, indicating that the administration is considering talks without preconditions.
DPRK refers to the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, the North's official name.
The delegation will fly into Pyongyang on a special flight Monday afternoon, and stay for one night. It tested intercontinental ballistic missiles that for the first time appeared capable of reaching the continental United States, and it tested a thermonuclear device in September that was far more powerful than earlier versions.
"It is highly likely that North Korea has a nuclear and missile compromise plan that is different from its current position", said Cheong Seong-chang of the Sejong Institute's Department of Unification Strategy Studies.