South Korea proposes high-level talks with North on Olympics
only two North Korean athletes who qualify for this year's
Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang
South Korea has offered high level talks with North
Korea on 9 January to discuss its possible participation in the 2018
Winter Olympic Games.
It comes after the North's leader Kim Jong-un said he
was considering sending a team to Pyeongchang in South Korea for the
Games in February.
He said the two sides should "urgently meet to discuss
South Korea's president said earlier he saw the offer
as a chance to improve the highly tense relationship.
South Korean Unification Minister Cho Myoung-gyon
proposed on Tuesday that representatives could meet at Panmunjom, the
so-called "truce village".
The village, in the heavily guarded demilitarised zone
(DMZ) at the border, is where the Koreas have historically held talks.
"We hope that the South and North can sit face to face
and discuss the participation of the North Korean delegation at the
Pyeongchang Games as well as other issues of mutual interest for the
improvement of inter-Korean ties," said Mr Cho.
It is not yet known who will be attending the proposed
talks on the 9 January, and North Korea has yet to respond.
The last high-level talks took place in December 2015
in the Kaesong joint industrial zone.
They ended without any agreement and the meeting's
agenda was not made public.
North Korea has in the past two years quickly advanced
its nuclear and convention weapons programme, despite increasing
Melting a frozen relationship
At a cabinet meeting on Tuesday, President Moon Jae-in
said he welcomed Kim Jong-un's comments.
Jong-un's New Year speech took an unexpectedly conciliatory
tone with South Korea
Mr Moon said he had himself already suggested the
Olympic Games could be a "groundbreaking chance" to move towards peace.
He said the relevant ministries should "swiftly come
up with follow-up measures to quickly restore South-North Korean
dialogue" and ensure a delegation from the North could attend the Games.
But he said co-operation with the South's
international allies on halting North Korea's controversial nuclear and
ballistic weapon development would continue.
In his speech on Monday, the North Korean leader
repeated his threats against the US. He said the entire country was
within range of North Korean weapons and the nuclear button was "always
on my table".
However, he offered a potential olive branch to South
Korea, saying the frozen relationship "should melt".
"The year 2018 is a significant year for both the
North and the South, with the North marking the 70th anniversary of its
birth and the South hosting the Winter Olympics.
"We should melt the frozen North-South relations, thus
adorning this meaningful year as a year to be specially recorded in the
history of the nation," he said
Korean figure skaters could yet be competing in Pyeongchang
'New Year's gift'
The president of the Pyeongchang Games' organising
committee, Lee Hee-beom, earlier told South Korea's news agency Yonhap
he was delighted to hear of the North's potential participation.
"It's like a New Year's gift," he said.
North Korea's KCNA state media said on Tuesday that
the country was "filled with firm determination to achieve fresh
victory" in the Games.
The only two North Korean athletes who qualified for
the Games are figure skaters Ryom Tae-Ok and Kim Ju-Sik.
Although the North has missed the official deadline to
confirm their participation, the skaters could still compete with an
invitation by the International Olympic Committee..
Courtesy : BBC News
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