(ATR) North Korea will meet face-to-face with South Korean officials next week to discuss a delegation for the PyeongChang 2018 Games and other inter-Korean issues.
"Today, North Korea sent a notice at 10:16 a.m. in regard to the proposal for high-level talks," Tae Hyun Baek, South Korean Ministry of Unification spokesperson, said in a statement today.
Multiple South Korean government bodies confirmed that the talks will center on a delegation for the PyeongChang 2018 Olympics. However, given the rarity and sensitivity of talks between the two Koreas, other subjects will likely come up.
Talks will take place on Jan. 9 at the neutral village of Panmunjom in the Demilitarized Zone. It will be the first time officials from the two countries talked since 2015.
"The North said, ‘The South and North Korean authorities are welcome to discuss the improvement of inter-Korean relations, including participation in the PyeongChang Winter Olympics, and to respond to our proposal to open the outpost,’" Baek added in the ministry statement.
A spokesperson for the PyeongChang 2018 Olympics told Around the Rings the organizing committee "will await the results of the first meeting".
"It will be the first of many [talks], so we are always hopeful," the spokesperson added.
PyeongChang 2018, the IOC, international federations, and the South Korean government are working behind the scenes to prepare for a possible North Korean delegation. A South Korean presidential spokesperson told ATR that there will be no preconditions for North Korea to participate at PyeongChang outside of meeting IOC-set criteria.
However, protocols for North Korean athletes will need to be adopted and agreed upon to prevent any incidents.Before the 2014 Asian Games, organizers took a number of steps such as removing North Korean flags from outside of venues, and barring fans from bringing the flag into stadiums. Journalists’ access to the North Korean delegation was limited, but a daily schedule was produced.
Speculation has emerged that North Korean leader Jong Un Kim’s call for talks was done in an attempt to divide the U.S.-South Korea alliance.
General Vincent Brooks, commander of U.S. forces in Korea, said at a university in Seoul talks could be seen as a way to divide United States, South Korea, China, Japan and Russia. Brooks said that enthusiasm should be kept at an "appropriate level" when addressing talks, as reported by Yonhap.
"We can be generally pleased by the recent overtures that happened, but we must keep our expectations at the appropriate level," Brooks was quoted as saying. "We have to be alert to opportunities, while staying ready throughout the year, ensuring that the alliance is stronger with every day that passes than it was the day before."
Yesterday, U.S. President Donald Trump said he "100 percent" supported South Korean President Jae In Moon’s pursuit of talks. Trump had appeared to already take credit for talks earlier in the day in a tweet.
"With all of the failed ‘experts’ weighing in, does anybody really believe that talks and dialogue would be going on between North and South Korea right now if I wasn’t firm, strong and willing to commit our total ‘might’ against the North," Trump tweeted. "Fools, but talks are a good thing!"
President Moon reportedly assured members of the Korean Senior Citizens Association that he was approaching talks not solely for the "naïve" purpose of reopening dialogue as past leaders had.
"I will also seek to establish peace while pushing for dialogue based on strong defensive capabilities," Moon was quoted as saying by Yonhap.
Written by Aaron Bauer
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