North and South Korea reopen cautious dialogue
North Korea will send athletes and cheerleaders to next month’s Winter Olympics in South Korea, after the two countries held their first official talks for more than two years.
The North Korean party will also include performing artists and journalists, South Korea’s vice unification minister, Chun Hae-sung, said after the first session of talks ended on Tuesday. Chun added that South Korea had proposed that the two Koreas march together during the opening and closing ceremonies at the Pyeongchang Games, which open on 9 February. The two Koreas previously made joint entrances to Olympics opening and closing ceremonies in Sydney in 2000, Athens in 2004 and at the 2006 Winter Games in Turin.
The agreement represents a cautious diplomatic breakthrough after months of rising tensions over Pyongyang’s nuclear weapons programme.
The five-member North Korean delegation travelled to the border in a motorcade and then walked across the military demarcation line into the southern side of the truce village of Panmunjom on Tuesday morning. The village straddles the demilitarised zone that separates the two Koreas.
As the two sides sat down for their first face-to-face talks since December 2015, North Korean media hit back at Donald Trump’s claim that his stance against Pyongyang had facilitated the Olympic negotiations. The Rodong Sinmun, the newspaper of the ruling Workers’ party, said Trump’s claim was “ridiculous sophism”. Reuters reported that South Korean negotiators had also proposed military talks designed to ease tensions on the peninsula.
Early discussions focused on North Korean participation in the Pyeongchang Winter Games, but were also thought to have included other inter-Korean issues such as the resumption of reunions between family members who were separated at the end of the 1950-53 Korean war.