Koreas hold talks on N. Korea's Olympic delegation and other issues

Lim Chang-won Reporter Posted : 2018-01-09 13:12 Updated : 2018-01-09 13:12
글씨작게 글씨크게

South and North Korean chief delegates shake hands at the start of talks in the truce village of Panmunjom. [Joint Press Corps]

SEOUL, Jan. 09 (Aju News) -- North Korea called for sincerity Tuesday as the two Koreas held their first talks in more than two years to discuss the North's participation in next month's Winter Olympics in South Korea and a possible thaw in frozen relations.

The meeting began at the truce village of Panmunjom in the middle of the demilitarized zone, which bisects the Korean peninsula, with both sides exchanging greetings in an amicable atmosphere before going into a closed session, according to pool reports.

"I hope North and South Korean authorities will hold talks well in a serious and sincere manner to give previous results to the entire Korean people as the first New year gift," North Korea's chief delegate, Ri Son-gwon, said in his opening statement.

Ri led a five-member delegation to the meeting in Panmunjom that came after U.S. and South Korean leaders agreed on a temporary halt to regular joint military exercises during the Winter Olympics.

His South Korean counterpart, Unification Minister Cho Myoung-gyon, voiced caution and patience. "We should not hurry to solve each one with patience."

In his New Year's message, North Korean leader Kim Jong-un came up with a sudden peace overture, saying he is willing to send a sports delegation to South Korea. Last week, the North reopened the Panmunjom hotline, which has been used for inter-Korean contact and exchanges for decades.

The two Koreas held their last meeting in December 2015. Two months later, North Korea cut off cross-border hotlines after South Korea shut down an inter-Korean industrial estate in retaliation for the North's ballistic missile and nuclear tests.

The meeting in Panmunjom came after U.S. President Donald Trump endorsed South Korean President Moon Jae-in's proposal to stop any joint military drills between the allies in February if there are no more North Korean provocations.

There are about 28,000 US troops stationed in South Korea. Extra US military assets and personnel come from abroad for regular joint drills that Washington and Seoul insist are purely defensive in nature, but which Pyongyang condemns as provocative rehearsals for an attack on the North.

Moon has said the resumption of inter-Korean talks would help create an atmosphere for dialogue between Washington and Pyongyang on resolving the North Korean nuclear issue.