North Korea accepts South Korea's proposal for high-level talks

The two Koreas are set to discuss to upcoming Winter Olympics during high-level talks on 9 January 

North Korea has accepted an offer to attend high-level talks at South Korea next week.

The two countries agreed Friday on a date for their first formal dialogue in more than two years, in hopes to find ways to cooperate for the upcoming Winter Olympics in the South.

The meeting, on 9 January, will focus on finding a way for North Korean athletes to attended the games in February.

The announcement by Seoul's Unification Ministry came hours after the United States agreed to delay annual joint military exercises with South Korea until after the Winter Olympics

The exercises have been a major source of tension because North Korea considers them an invasion rehearsal.

North Korean leader Kim Jong-un said this week that sending a delegation to the Games would be “a good opportunity to show unity” among North Koreans.

The meeting is expected to be held at Panmunjom, on the border.

Spokesman Baik Tae-hyun said he expects the two Koreas to exchange messages through documented exchanges in order to determine who would head each other's delegations and other issues. Representatives for the two Koreas have yet to be confirmed.

Talks between North and South Korea are rare, and usually take place at Panmunjom, a truce village on the heavily fortified frontier that separates the two countries, where solders from both sides face off
Talks between North and South Korea are rare, and usually take place at Panmunjom, a truce village on the heavily fortified frontier that separates the two countries, where solders from both sides face off

Any dialogue between the Koreas is considered a positive step toward easing confrontations. Critics have however said the North's abrupt push for improving ties may be a tactic to divide Seoul and Washington and weaken international pressure and sanctions on Pyongyang.

These will be the first high-level talks the both Koreas have had since December 2015. It is not yet clear who will be attending.

South Korea's President Moon Jae-in has previously said he sees the Winter Olympics as a "groundbreaking chance" to improve relations between the Koreas, two countries still technically at war.

Earlier this week, North Korea restored a telephone hotline at their mutual border, to enable the first contact about talks to be made.

However, the South Korean Unification Ministry official told AFP that the acceptance of the invitation to talks was sent by fax on Friday morning.

"The two sides decided to discuss working-level issues for the talks by exchanging documents," Baik Tae-hyun, a spokesman of Seoul's unification ministry, told Yonhap.

North Korea has infuriated the world with its repeated nuclear tests and missile launches, which have resulted in tightened international sanctions.

Earlier this week, Kim Jong Un said in his New Year's Day address that he has a "nuclear button" on his desk to fire atomic weapons at the United States. President Donald Trump quickly responded that he had a nuclear button of his own.

Kim has repeatedly affirmed the North’s commitment to the mass production of nuclear missiles and warned of a nuclear strike if North Korea felt threatened.

 

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