NORTH KOREA TO ATTEND OLYMPICS IN SOUTH KOREA AS TENSIONS EASE
SEOUL: North Korea offered to send athletes and a high-level delegation to the forthcoming Winter Olympics in the South as the rivals held their first official talks on Tuesday in more than two years after months of tensions over Pyongyang's nuclear weapons programme.
Seoul urged that reunions of families divided by the 1950-53 Korean War -- one of the most emotive legacies of the conflict -- be held at the same time as the Games.
The talks were held in Panmunjom, the truce village in the Demilitarized Zone that splits the peninsula, with the North's group walking over the Military Demarcation Line to the Peace House venue on the southern side -- just yards from where a defector ran across in a hail of bullets two months ago.
Looking businesslike, the South's Unification minister Cho MyoungGyon and the North's chief delegate Ri Son-gwon shook hands at the entrance to the building, and again across the table.
In accordance with standard practice in the North, Ri wore a badge on his left lapel bearing an image of the country's founding father Kim Il-sung and his son and successor Kim Jong-il. Cho also wore a lapel badge, depicting the South Korean flag. As well as its athletes, the North proposed sending a high-level delegation, supporters, art performers and a taekwondo demonstration team to the Games, the South's vice unification minster Chun Hae-sung told journalists.
Seoul suggested the two sides march together at the opening ceremony, he added, and called for the resumption of family reunions, as well as Red Cross talks and military discussions to prevent “accidental clashes”.
“Let's present the people with a precious new year's gift,"”said the North's Ri. “There is a saying that a journey taken by two lasts longer than the one travelled alone.” The atmosphere was friendlier than at past meetings, and Cho told him that Seoul believed “guests from the North are going to join many others from all around the world” at the Olympics.
“The people have a strong desire to see the North and South move toward peace and reconciliation,” he added.
It was a radically different tone from the rhetoric of recent months, which have seen the North's leader Kim Jong-un and US President Donald Trump trade personal insults and threats of war, while Pyongyang has launched missiles capable of reaching the US mainland and carried out its sixth and most powerful nuclear test to date.
Seoul has been keen to proclaim the Games in Pyeongchang, just 80 kilometres (50 miles) south of the DMZ, a “peace Olympics” but it needs Pyongyang to attend to make the description meaningful.
Kim indicated in his New Year's speech that the North could take part in the Games and Seoul responded with an offer of high-level dialogue. Last week the hotline between the neighbours was restored after being suspended for almost two years.
Issues still to be settled include the question of joint entrances to the opening and closing ceremonies, the size of the delegation and their accommodation -- widely expected to be paid for by Seoul -- as well as any linked discussions.
The North so far has only two winter sports athletes qualified for the Games, but hundreds of young, female North Korean cheerleaders have created a buzz at three previous international sporting events in the South.
The group may stay on a cruise ship in Sokcho, about an hour's drive from the Olympic venue, which would enable their movements to be closely monitored and controlled. A high-level delegation accompanying the team could include Kim's younger sister Yo-jong, who is a senior member of the ruling Workers' Party, according to South Korean reports. BEIJING: China on Tuesday denied as “unnecessary” speculation reports that it was planning to build a military base at Jiwani in Pakistan's Balochistan province close to the strategic Chabahar port, which is being jointly developed by India, Iran and Afghanistan.
According to reports, Pakistan may allow China to build the military base in Jiwani which is also close the Gwadar port being developed by Beijing.
The Global Times quoted a Washington Times report that China is in talks with Pakistan to build its second overseas military base as part of a push for greater maritime capabilities along strategic sea routes.
“I am not aware of what you mentioned,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Lu Kang told the media when asked to comment on the report. The media in China and abroad said that Pakistan offered the key location to China as a retaliation to US President Donald Trump s New Year Day criticism of Islamabad for not cracking down on terrorist safe havens in the country.
The Chinese media has been speculating that Trump's efforts to step up pressure on Pakistan may move it closer to Islamabad as Beijing is involved in a number of projects in the country under the $50 billion China-pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC).
“As you know building of the China-pakistan Economic Corridor is an important part of the Belt and Road Initiative,” Lu said.
“China and Pakistan are also making efforts to build the China-pakistan Economic Corridor which is in the common interests of the countries along the route. I don t think it is necessary for the outside world to make too much guesses in this regard,” he said.