North Korean leader Kim Jong-un has invited Pope Francis to Pyongyang, South Korea’s presidential office said on Tuesday, according to Reuters.
South Korean President Moon Jae-in will deliver Kim’s invitation when he visits the Vatican on October 17 and October 18, said spokesperson Kim Eui-kyeom said. North Korea and the Vatican have no diplomatic relations.
“President Moon will visit the Vatican to reaffirm its blessing and support for peace and stability of the Korean peninsula,” the spokesperson said. “When he [Moon] meets with Pope Francis, he will convey Chairman Kim’s message that he will ardently welcome him if he visits Pyongyang.”
This is the first time a pope is being invited to North Korea since Kim Jong-un’s father, Kim Jong-il, invited Pope John Paul II in 2000. However, Pope John Paul II did not make a visit to the country.
The invitation extended to the head of the Catholic Church is the latest gesture of reconciliation. On Sunday, United States Secretary of State Mike Pompeo met Kim Jong-un during a trip to Pyongyang and said that the North Korean leader has agreed to give international inspectors access to the country’s nuclear and missile testing sites.
Earlier this year, Kim met US President Donald Trump in Singapore where he promised to work towards denuclearising the Korean peninsula. Both leaders had signed a joint statement in which the US agreed to establish diplomatic relations.
Kim has also met with South Korean President Moon Jae-in in September and agreed to make the Korean peninsula a “region without nuclear weapons”.