North and South Korea have agreed to hold high-level talks next week, the Defence Ministry in Seoul said Friday, with North Korea’s potential participation in next month’s Olympics top of the agenda.
Pyongyang had accepted an invitation from Seoul to hold talks in the shared border village of Panmunjom, located in the Demilitarized Zone, on Tuesday, the ministry said.
The talks will be the first meeting between the two governments in more than two years and come after both sides extended olive branches.
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un had offered to send a delegation to the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics in South Korea in his New Year’s address, and said he sincerely hoped they would be “a success.”
In response, Seoul suggested Tuesday’s meeting, saying it wished to resolve the crisis over North Korea’s nuclear programme with dialogue and diplomacy.
Hopes of a potential thaw between the neighbours continued on Wednesday, when the two countries restored a telephone hotline in Panmunjom that had not been used since 2016.
And on Thursday, the US and South Korea said they had agreed to delay planned joint military exercises until after the Olympics.
Tensions escalated on the Korean peninsula over the course of 2017 as North Korea forged ahead with developing its missiles and nuclear weapons.
North and South Korea have been in a technical state of war since 1953, when a ceasefire came into force. Talks have started multiple times since then to establish a formal peace treaty, but have always collapsed due to acrimony on each side.
North Korea is enraged by the South’s reliance on the United States, especially its decision to let US troops be stationed there, as well as and its policy of conducting regular military drills with those troops.
It has also reacted badly to South Korean programmes to blast propaganda messages across the border by loudspeaker.
DPA, 05th JANUARY, 2018