Koreas agree on military talks and N. Korea's participation in Olympics: Yonhap

Lim Chang-won Reporter Posted : 2018-01-10 07:58 Updated : 2018-01-10 07:58
글씨작게 글씨크게

[Joint Press Corps]

SEOUL, Jan. 10 (Aju News) -- North Korea accepted Seoul's proposal to hold military talks to reduce tensions and agreed to send a delegation to next month's Winter Olympics in the South, according to a joint press statement issued after their high-level talks.

In their first formal dialogue in two years at the border village of Panmunjom, they also agreed to reactivate cooperation and exchanges through diverse levels of talks including a high-level meeting, Seoul officials said.

The agreement marked a major breakthrough in the years of frosty ties between the two countries and in last year's heightened tensions over the North's nuclear and missile provocations.

North Korea offered to send high-ranking officials, cheerleaders, performing artists, taekwondo demonstration teams and journalists in addition to athletes. The South promised to provide them with necessary conveniences.

They will hold working-level talks to further discuss details of the North's participation. The two Koreas also agreed to hold military talks to discuss ways to reduce border tensions, which Seoul proposed in July last year. But South Korea's proposal to arrange reunions of families separated by the 1950-53 Korean War in February was not included in the press statement.

During the meeting, South Korea's chief delegate Cho Myoung-gyon raised the need to resume talks on North Korea's denuclearization. Ri Son-gwon, the North's chief delegate, is said to have made "strong" complaints about South Korean media reports that Tuesday's talks would deal with the North's nukes.'

The meeting came after North Korean leader Kim Jong-un extended a rare offer of rapprochement to Seoul in his New Year's Day message. He expressed a willingness to send a delegation to the PyeongChang Olympics and said his country is open for dialogue.

North Korea accepted Seoul's dialogue offer Friday after the South and the United States agreed to postpone their military drills until after the Olympics. It also reopened a long-disconnected border hotline.

"This meeting takes on significance in terms of restoring and developing inter-Korean ties. The two sides shared the need to upgrade our ties based on mutual respect," Unification Minister Cho Myoung-gyon, the South's chief delegate, told pool reporters at the truce village. "South-North ties took their first step. As they have been strained for a long time, there are a lot tasks to do," he added.

An agreement on the Olympics was widely expected, given Kim Jong-un's New Year speech, but with regard to inter-Korean ties, there is still a long way to go, though Tuesday's meeting was the first step forward better relations, experts said.

Details over the North's Olympic participation, such as its delegation's travel route, accommodation and security issues, should be discussed at follow-up meetings.

If the land route across the heavily guarded border is chosen, there will have to be consultation between the military authorities of the two Koreas. North Korea re-opened a military hotline with the South, a move aimed at facilitating discussions on this issue.

The two sides came short of agreeing to march together under a unified Korean flag at the opening and closing ceremonies, but Seoul said that the two Koreas "got closer" on the issue of joint parades and cultural events.