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SEOUL, South Korea -The rival Koreas moved toward easing their bitter animosity Tuesday during rare talks, with North Korea agreeing to take part in next month’s Winter Olympics in South Korea. The countries also agreed to hold more discussions on reducing tension along their border and to reopen a military hotline.
The first meeting of its kind between the nations in about two years was arranged after North Korean leader Kim Jong Un made an abrupt push for improved ties with South Korea following a year of escalating tensions with the outside world over his expanding nuclear and missile programs. Critics say Kim may be trying to divide Seoul and Washington in a bid to weaken international pressure and sanctions on the North.
In comments that appeared to back up those critical views, chief North Korean delegate Ri Son Gwon said his country’s nuclear weapons are aimed at the United States, not South Korea. He made the comments while complaining about what he called inaccurate South Korean media reports that he said Tuesday’s talks dealt with North Korea’s nuclear disarmament.
“All our state-of-the-art strategic weapons like atomic bombs, hydrogen bombs and intercontinental ballistic rockets are completely targeting the United States. They are not targeting our compatriots” in the South, Ri said, according to media footage from the border village of Panmunjom, where the talks were held.
Despite Ri’s comments, the agreements were still seen to be a positive move. Chief South Korean delegate Cho Myoung-gyon described the accords as a “first step toward the development of South-North relations” when he briefed reporters about the meeting.
Ri read what he called a joint statement after the talks, under which the two Koreas agreed to “actively cooperate” in the Olympics to “enhance the prestige of the Korean people.”