Groundbreaking Chance for KOrean Talks

South Korea’s unification minister Cho Myoung-Gyon told a press conference that Seoul was “willing to hold talks with the North at any time and place in any form”
Groundbreaking Chance for  KOrean Talks
Groundbreaking Chance for  KOrean Talks

South Korean President Moon Jae-In on Tuesday urged authorities to organize "follow-up measures to quickly restore … dialogue" between the two countries, saying he sees Kim's suggestion for talks between the two states as a "groundbreaking chance" to improve relations and "establish peace."

On Monday, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un suggested that both countries hold talks, saying Seoul should stop seeking foreign countries' assistance to improve ties on the Korean Peninsula, DW reported.

"We are ready to take various steps, including the dispatch of the delegation. To this end, the two Koreas can immediately meet," Kim said in his New Year's address.

"The Winter Games to be held in South Korea will be a good occasion for the country. We sincerely hope that the Winter Olympics will be a success," South Korea's Yonhap news agency quoted Kim as saying.

In the same address, however, Kim also said that the United States should be aware that his country's nuclear forces were now a reality and not a mere threat. He stressed he had a "nuclear button" on his office desk.

  Peace Olympics

South Korean officials have described the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics as an opportunity for "peace" on the Korean Peninsula before North Korea's leader announced the country's intention to send a delegation to the games.

Even before Kim's announcement, Moon said he did not expect North Korea to "do anything that may undermine the Olympics." Tensions have been high on the Korean Peninsula since Pyongyang launched its most advanced ballistic missile in November, prompting criticism from the region and the international community.        

The winter games are expected to take place in mid-February and last for the rest of the month.

Echoing Moon’s view, South Korea’s unification minister Cho Myoung-Gyon told a press conference that Seoul was “willing to hold talks with the North at any time and place in any form”.

“The government proposes to hold high-level government talks with North Korea on January 9 at the Peace House in Panmunjom,” Cho said, referring to a truce village on the border between the two Koreas.

“We hope that the South and North can sit face to face and discuss the participation of the North Korean delegation at the Pyeongchang Games as well as other issues of mutual interest for the improvement of inter-Korean ties.”

The Koreas, divided by a Demilitarized Zone since the end of the 1950-53 Korean War, last held high-level talks in 2015 to try to ease tensions.

Those talks failed to reach an agreement.

  North Nuclear Program

Meanwhile, Moon said an improvement in relations with the North must be linked to Pyongyang’s nuclear program.

“The improvement of relations between North and South Korea cannot go separately with resolving North Korea’s nuclear program, so the foreign ministry should coordinate closely with allies and the international community regarding this,” Moon Jae-In said in a statement.

North Korea has rattled the international community in recent months with multiple missile launches and its sixth and most powerful nuclear test -- purportedly of a hydrogen bomb.

On Tuesday, Pyongyang’s closest ally China said greeted the “positive message” on possible talks.

“This is a good thing,” said spokesman Geng Shuang. “China welcomes and supports that both North Korea and South Korea take this as an opportunity to make effective efforts to improve their mutual relations and promote the relaxation of the situation on the peninsula and the denuclearization of the peninsula.”

  Same Blood

In his speech Monday the North’s leader said the Olympics could provide a reason for officials from the neighbors to meet in the near future.

“Since we are compatriots of the same blood as South Koreans, it is natural for us to share their pleasure over the auspicious event and help them,” Kim said in his address.

The main venues for the Games are just 80 kilometers (50 miles) from the heavily fortified border with North Korea and the build-up to the event has been overshadowed by the nuclear weapons standoff.

But Seoul and the Games’ organizers are very keen for the North to take part.

Analysts say its participation at Pyeongchang is likely, given Kim’s remarks about sending a delegation there.

Two North Korean athletes —pairs figure skaters Ryom Tae-Ok and Kim Ju-Sik— qualified for the Games but Pyongyang’s Olympic Committee missed an October 30 deadline to confirm to the International Skating Union that they would participate.

They could still be invited to compete by the International Olympic Committee.


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