Visiting Vatican, South Korean president says confident of peace

Pyongyang's promise to leave existing arsenal seems to be fading

During a visit with Pope Francis at the Vatican, South Korean President Moon Jae-in shared a message from Kim Jong Un: Please come to North Korea. A trip that would be the first by a pope to officially atheist North Korea would need "serious preparation and consideration", Parolin said.

If the visit takes place, it will be the first time for a leader of the Catholic Church to step foot in the North.

Taiwanese Vice President Chen Chien-jen made the invitation during a weekend audience with the pope, later telling reporters that Francis had "smiled" when he made the offer. Francis said it represented "his desire for peace" on the Korean peninsula. Pyongyang's constitution purportedly ensures "freedom of religion" as long as it does not undermine the state, although no openly religious activities are allowed.

Church officials estimate that North Korea had a Catholic community of about 55,000 just before the 1950-53 Korean War. His "diplomacy of encounter" has reaped some rewards.

"It will be a great help to my people who wish for peace".

In 2014, the pope also hosted American and Cuban negotiators in Rome to seek a diplomatic accord after an 18-month impasse.

Moon said incredible changes were already happening on the peninsula.


The president asked the Vatican to continue praying for peace on the peninsula. Moon is using his nine-day trip to European capitals to try and build a consensus to keep the momentum for the denuclearization process alive, Cheong Wa Dae officials told The Korea Times.

The Vatican secretary of state, Cardinal Pietro Parolin, said of the likelihood of Francis accepting such an invite: "I would say the availability to go is there".

In a statement, the Vatican said: "Strong appreciation was expressed for the common commitment to fostering all useful initiatives to overcome the tensions that still exist in the Korean Peninsula, in order to usher in a new season of peace and development".

Moon responded by saying he was "very certain peace could be achieved on the peninsula".

"The prayer for peace on the Korean Peninsula that resounded at St. Peter's Basilica today will echo in the hearts of the people in South Korea, North Korea and all the rest of the world who hope for peace", Moon said.

North Korea's leader Kim Jong Un walks with President Donald Trump, left, during a break in talks at their historic US-North Korea summit at the Capella Hotel on Sentosa island in Singapore, June 12, 2018. I am so honored to do this.

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