With the PyeongChang Olympics a month away, officials from North Korea will meet with officials from South Korea at the Panmunjom truce village on the inter-Korean border Tuesday morning in an effort to resolve tensions enflamed by North Korea’s nuclear tests and alleged cyberattacks.
“We have some things we’ve suggested to the North so that we can first concentrate on discussing the North’s participation in the Winter Olympics and the Paralympics at Tuesday’s talks,” Baik Tae-hyun, spokesman for South Korea’s Unification Ministry, said at a news conference Monday.
“Matters other than the Olympics may be discussed if possible, but we cannot forecast what will happen during the talks,” he added.
The occasion marks the first face-to-face talk between North Korea and South Korea in two years.
According to Yonhap News Agency, South Korean Minister of Unification Cho Myoung-gyon will lead a five-member delegation.
“Basically, the two sides will focus on the Olympics.We will listen to what North Korea will say. We will make efforts to enable the North to take part in the games,” Cho told reporters Monday. “When discussing inter-Korean relations, the government will seek to raise the issue of war-torn families and ways to ease military tensions.”
What led to the talks?
The discussions follow a week of amiable gestures between the neighboring countries, starting with Kim Jong Un’s New Year’s Day speech, during which he said that North Koreans “earnestly wish” to join the upcoming Olympics.
Lee Hee-beom, head of the organizing committee for PyeongChang 2018 Olympics, described Jong Un’s announcement as a “positive sign” and “a gift on New Year’s Day.”
The following day, South Korean officials responded with an offer to hold talks. On Jan. 3, the countries re-opened a cross-border telephone line, which had been disconnected for nearly two years.
A day later, President Donald Trump agreed to Seoul’s request to delay annual U.S.-South Korea military exercises until after the Olympics. The North has characterized those exercises as rehearsals for an invasion.”
During a conference at Camp David Sunday, Trump celebrated news of the talks.
“Right now they’re talking Olympics. It’s a start, it’s a big start,” Trump said. “Something can happen and something can come out of those talks — that would be a great thing for all of humanity. That would be a great thing for the world.”