South Korea proposes high-level talks with North
SEOUL – Agence France-Presse
South Korea on Jan. 2 proposed high-level talks with Pyongyang on Jan. 9, after the North’s leader Kim Jong-Un called for a breakthrough in relations and said his country might attend the Winter Olympics in the South next month.
“The government proposes to hold high-level government talks with North Korea on Jan. 9 at the Peace House in Panmunjom,” Cho said, referring to a truce village in the demilitarized zone separating 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.”
Cho added that the specifics of the proposed talks, including its agenda, could be discussed through the inter-Korean hotline at Panmunjom, which has been cut off since 2016.
The Koreas, divided by the demilitarized zone since the end of the 1950-53 Korean War, last held high-level talks in 2015 in an effort to ease border tensions.
“Just the fact that they are meeting will be meaningful because it signals an attempt on both sides to improve relations,” said Koh Yu-Hwan, a political science professor at Dongguk University.
Dovish South Korean President Moon Jae-In, who has long favored engagement to defuse tensions with the North, earlier Jan. 2 welcomed Kim’s suggestion that there could be an opportunity to kick-start dialogue.
However, he indicated that improvements in inter-Korean ties must go hand in hand with steps towards denuclearization of the North.
Moon proposed Red Cross and military talks last year, but Pyongyang did not respond.
It has shrugged off a raft of new sanctions and heightened rhetoric from Washington as it continues to drive forward with its weapons program, and has said its arsenal is for defense against aggression from the U.S. and its allies.
Moon called them a “positive response” to Seoul’s hope that the Pyeongchang Olympics would be a “groundbreaking opportunity for peace” and urged officials to come up with measures to realize the North’s participation.