U.S. Meets With South Koreans Bearing a ‘Message’ from Pyongyang

WASHINGTON—The Trump administration’s top national-security officials huddled at the White House on Thursday with South Korean counterparts who said they were bringing a message to the U.S. from Pyongyang.

Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster,

the White House national security adviser, as well as officials from the State Department and elsewhere met with South Korea’s national-security adviser, Chung Eui-yong, and intelligence chief,

Suh Hoon.

The two South Korean officials met earlier this week with North Korea’s leader

Kim Jong Un.

Mr. Chung said he planned to deliver a message from Mr. Kim, according to South Korea’s semiofficial Yonhap news agency. He didn’t specify what the message was and made no comment after arriving in Washington.

Earlier, Seoul said that Mr. Kim was prepared to negotiate with Washington about setting aside his nuclear weapons in exchange for security guarantees.

Trump administration officials in Thursday’s meeting with the South Korean security officials said they would be looking for signs that indicate whether Pyongyang is serious about taking steps toward denuclearization.

Secretary of State

Rex Tillerson,

speaking to reporters earlier Thursday in Ethiopia, said North Korea appears to be sending positive signals, but that the U.S. is “a long ways” from entering formal negotiations.

He outlined a process by which the U.S. could get to negotiations, first through a set of more informal communications with North Korea.

“I think the first step…is to have some kind of talks about talks,” he said. “I don’t know yet, until we are able to meet ourselves face to face with representatives of North Korea, whether the conditions are right to even begin thinking about negotiations.”

The U.S. has a number of channels to communicate with the North Koreans, including through the country’s ambassador to the United Nations.

If North Korea reaffirms the stance that Seoul has outlined, that probably would represent a sufficient basis for the U.S. to begin talking with North Korean representatives, U.S. officials said.

Precisely what form those initial talks might take is unclear, but officials said they have worked to develop a U.S. negotiating proposal, which they have declined to detail.

The North Koreans have talked before about giving up their nuclear arsenal once the threat to the regime is removed and some U.S. officials have been wary that Pyongyang might also insist on the removal of American troops and severing the U.S.-South Korean military alliance.

Write to Felicia Schwartz at Felicia.Schwartz@wsj.com and Michael R. Gordon at michael.gordon@wsj.com

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