By Josh Smith
SEOUL (Reuters) – U.S. Director of National Intelligence Avril Haines visited the Demilitarised Zone (DMZ) along the border with North Korea as part of a visit to South Korea on Thursday, the Yonhap news agency reported.
Haines’ visit comes a week ahead of South Korean President Moon Jae-in’s first summit with new U.S. President Joe Biden in Washington.
Yonhap published photographs of Haines leaving her hotel in Seoul and a convoy of vehicles it said was carrying her and other members of the U.S. delegation arriving at the DMZ.
She was expected to take a brief tour of the Joint Security Area in the inter-Korean truce village of Panmunjom, where talks with North Korea have been held in the past, among other areas, Yonhap reported.
The U.S. Embassy did not immediately respond to a request for comment, and it was not clear if the American delegation had sought a meeting with North Korean officials during her trip.
South Korea’s National Intelligence Service declined to comment on the visit, citing security concerns.
Stalled denuclearisation talks with North Korea are expected to top the agenda of next week’s summit in Washington, with Moon expected to press Biden to engage with North Korea.
In March, the White House said North Korea had not responded to a behind-the-scenes diplomatic effort by the administration to engage in dialogue.
After completing a policy review last month, the Biden administration said it had settled on a new approach to pressing North Korea to give up nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles that will explore diplomacy but not seek a grand bargain with leader Kim Jong Un.
North Korean officials have publicly criticised Biden’s policies as more of the same Cold War-style hostilities of previous presidents, but they have not commented on the specifics of the review.
(Reporting by Josh Smith; Additional reporting by Hyonhee Shin)