South Korea says, North Korea accepts Olympics talks offer

North Korea has accepted an offer to attend high-level talks next week, South Korean officials have said.
The meeting, on 9 January, will focus on finding a way for North Korean athletes to attend the Winter Olympic Games in South Korea in February.

North Korean leader Kim Jong-un said this week that sending a delegation to the Games would be “a good opportunity to show unity of the people”.

The meeting is expected to be held at Panmunjom, on the border.

These will be the first high-level talks both Koreas have had since December 2015. It is not yet clear who will be attending.

South Korea’s President Moon Jae-in has previously said he sees the Winter Olympics as a “groundbreaking chance” to improve relations between the Koreas, two countries still technically at war.

However some have suggested that North Korea’s acceptance to participate in direct talks with the South could affect the role of the US in future peace talks.

Others have expressed doubts over the significance of the move.

US Defense Secretary James Mattis said on Thursday that the agreement was “the result of international pressure”, but added that it was unclear whether the move was “a real olive branch” or a “one-off from [Mr Kim].”

Japan’s defence minister said his country would remain vigilant, adding that the North went through “phases of apparent dialogue and provocation” and would continue its weapons programme.

The so-called peace village, in the heavily guarded demilitarised zone (DMZ), is where the two sides have historically held talks.

According to an official from South Korea’s presidential office, the meeting’s priority will be the Pyeongchang Winter Games.

However, he told South Korea’s Yonhap news agency that he believed there would also “be discussions related to improving South-North ties after the North’s participation in the Olympics becomes final”.

Earlier this week, in a small sign of progress, North Korea restored a telephone hotline at their mutual border, to enable the first contact about talks to be made.

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This article has been posted by a News Hour Correspondent. For queries, please contact through [email protected]
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