Delegations Set for Crunch Olympic Talks

(ATR) South Korean and North Korean officials are set for Olympic talks in the Demilitarized Zone this week.

(ATR) The South Korean Unification Ministry will lead a five-member delegation that will "focus on the Olympics" in talks with North Korea, according to reports.

Myoung Gyun Cho, South Korean Unification Minister, will lead discussions from Seoul. His North Korean counterpart will be Son Gwon Ri, according to Korean media reports. Ri is the head of the North Korean government agency in charge of South Korean affairs.

The agenda for talks will be for a North Korean delegation to the 2018 Winter Olympics in PyeongChang, but a number of subjects are expected to be brought up.

"Basically, the two sides will focus on the Olympics," Cho was quoted telling Korean journalists by Yonhap. "When discussing inter-Korean relations, the government will seek to raise the issue of war-torn families and ways to ease military tensions."

North Korea’s IOC member Ung Chang was seen by Japanese media departing from Beijing from Pyongyang. Chang had been recalled to North Korea from Europe after the 2017 Association of National Olympic Committees meeting in November. He is the main intermediary between the IOC and North Korea.

Kyodo News said that Chang could be headed to Lausanne to hold discussions with the IOC about a North Korean delegation. An IOC spokesperson could not confirm the reports to Around the Rings.

Chang told Kyodo that North Korea was "likely to participate" in the 2018 Winter Olympics.

The IOC said in a statement, provided to ATR, it welcomed dialogue on the Korean peninsula, but from a sporting perspective it had "discussions with both sides for a long time".

"In doing so we have kept the door open by extending the deadline for registration, and by offering support to North Korean athletes in the qualification process, whilst always respecting United Nations sanctions," an IOC spokesperson said. "The IOC will at very short notice continue its talks with all the parties concerned so that we can take the necessary decisions about participation and the format of any participation in due time.

"With regard to the very particular situation on the Korean peninsula we need the political commitment from all parties concerned to make such a participation possible. Once this political commitment is clear the IOC will take the final decision."

Recent UN sanctions have banned all support to North Korea for "non-humanitarian purposes" according to reports. A report from Korea’s Chosun Ilbo questioned if North Korea’s delegation could participate in PyeongChang without violating those sanctions.

"Another problem could be that several top North Korean officials are on a [UN Security Council] blacklist," the Chosun Ilbo wrote. "They include Pyong So Hwang, Ryong Hae Choe and Yang Gon Kim, who made a surprise appearance at the Asian Games."

The report notes that North Korean Leader Jong Un Kim’s sister Yeo Jong Kim could be tapped to lead the delegation. She is not a member of a UNSC blacklist.

The momentum for upcoming talks has increased in the last few days. U.S. President Donald Trump said at a cabinet meeting he is "100 percent" behind the upcoming talks.

"I'd like to see them getting involved in the Olympics and maybe things go from there," Trump said.

Trump has engaged in a continuous war of words with Kim through the media as part of the U.S. President’s bellicose policy towards North Korea. He at one point appeared to take credit for talks, and compared the size of the U.S.’s "nuclear button" with that of North Korea's in a tweet.

Written by Aaron Bauer

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