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North and South Korea agree to hold talks on easing military tensions (CNN) North Korea has agreed to send a delegation to next month’s Winter Olympics in South Korea and to hold talks with Seoul to ease military tensions, in the most significant thaw in thaw in relations between the neighboring states in years ,Officials from the two nations met face to face on Tuesday for the first time in more than two years in the border town of Panmunjom, known as “truce village,” in the Korean peninsula’s heavily fortified demilitarized zone.
The two countries also announced military talks “to ease the current military tensions” following a year of hostilities over North Korea’s missile and nuclear testing in the region and US-South Korea joint military drills over the peninsula.”South and North Korea have decided to make joint efforts for the unity of the people and reconciliation by establishing an environment for peace and easing military tensions on the Korean Peninsula,” the statement read.
But it was not all harmony on Tuesday. North Korea’s chief negotiator, Ri Son Gwon, expressed strong discontent over South Korean claims to the media that denuclearization was discussed on Tuesday and could be part of military talks. He at the same time issued a threat to the US.
“Speaking of the nuclear issue, all state-of art-strategic weapons, including atomic and hydrogen bombs, ICBMs, rockets, are entirely targeting the US. It is not targeting our own people. It is not targeting China and Russia as well,” Ri said. ICBMs refer to intercontinental ballistic missiles.
N. Korea reopens disconnected military line (Yonhap News) North Korea reopened a disconnected military hotline to the South on Tuesday as the two Koreas held high-level talks to discuss the North’s participation in the PyeongChang Winter Olympics and ways to improve their ties.
The North notified the South that it reconnected the hotline earlier in the day, according to a South Korean government official. The line will be operating normally starting Wednesday, the government said.North Korea severed a border communication channel and the military hotline in February 2016 in protest at Seoul’s shutdown of a joint industrial complex.
The military hotline was previously used to notify the North of information regarding South Koreans moving in and out of the Kaesong Industrial Complex, just north of the inter-Korean border.The North restored the border hotline at the shared border village of Panmunjom last week after its leader Kim Jong-un extended a rare rapprochement to Seoul.
Seoul raises family reunions, military talks in inter-Korean meeting (Korea Herald) The two Koreas on Tuesday held their first talks in more than two years, with the South hoping to lay the foundations for further dialogue, while the North focused on its participation in the PyeongChang Olympic Winter Games. South Korea’s delegation was led by Ri Son-gwon, the chairman of the Committee for the Peaceful Reunification of the Country. CPRC is North Korea’s state agency handling inter-Korean affairs.
“I came to this meeting with a thought to hand a ‘precious result’ to our fellow people, who hold a great expectation,” Ri said at the start of the meeting. Ri also said the rare meeting was arranged upon “divine will,” on the back of “the hearts of the Korean people” and the “current situation.” In response to Ri’s remarks, Cho said the South Korean people want to steer inter-Korean relations toward reconciliation and peace.
At the start of the talks, which involved a series of meetings, Seoul’s delegation requested military and Red Cross talks, as well as the resumption of the denuclearization talks, in addition to matters relating to the games.
“(Seoul’s delegation) suggested holding family reunions in February to mark Seollal, and to hold Red Cross talks for this end,” South Korea’s Vice Minister of Unification Chun Hae-sung said.
North Korea offers ‘gift’ as inter-Korean talks start in DMZ (Asia Times) With the long-running North Korean nuclear crisis simmering at its highest level in years, hopes are high that today’s inter-Korean talks will deliver a thaw in troubled relations.Senior officials from the two Koreas met, as scheduled, at 10 am in the inter-Korean truce village of Panmunjeom in the Demilitarized Zone to discuss North Korea’s belated participation in the upcoming Winter Olympics, to be held in Pyeongchang, South Korea, from February 9-25.
Although North Korea only has two figure skaters qualified, their presence, together with a delegation and possibly a cheering squad, would have immense symbolic value. South Korean officials have said that they also hope to discuss reunions of divided families and the reduction of peninsula tensions during the talks.
IOC extends North Korea’s Winter Olympics deadline (Korea Herald) The International Olympic Committee has “extended the deadline” for North Korea’s participation in the Winter Olympics, it announced on Monday.“We will be as flexible as we can be,” an IOC spokesman told AFP over North Korea sending a team to the Pyeongchang Games in South Korea.
On Tuesday North and South Korea will hold their first official dialogue in more than two years to discuss the North’s participation at the 2018 Games in the truce village of Panmunjom.