N Korea to send athletes to Winter Olympics

Head of the North Korean delegation, Ri Son Gwon. Photo: Reuters
Head of the North Korean delegation, Ri Son Gwon. Photo: Reuters

North Korea said during rare talks with the South on Tuesday (local time) it will send a delegation of high-ranking officials, athletes and a cheering squad to the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics in South Korea next month, according to a senior South Korean official.

Seoul proposed inter-Korean military talks to reduce tensions on the Korean peninsula and a reunion of family members in time for February's Lunar New Year holiday, said South Korea's vice unification minister Chun Hae-sung.

South Korea also proposed that athletes from the two Koreas march together at the Games' opening ceremony and other joint activities between the two nations during the Winter Olympics, Chun told reporters outside the first formal talks between North and South Korea in more than two years.

The talks are being closely watched by world leaders eager for any sign of a reduction in tensions on the Korean peninsula amid rising fears over North Korea's missile launches and development of nuclear weapons in defiance of United Nations Security Council resolutions.

The meeting was to continue on Tuesday afternoon after the two sides broke up for separate lunches. It began at 10 a.m. (0100 GMT) in the three-storey Peace House just across the demilitarised zone on the South Korean side of Panmunjom truce village.

"North Korea said that they are determined to make today’s talks fruitful, and make it a groundbreaking opportunity," Chun said.

Chun also said the South Koreans proposed resuming negotiations over the North's nuclear programme but there was no specific response from the North Koreans.

However, North Korean officials said during the meeting they were open to promoting reconciliation between the two countries through dialogue and negotiation, according to Chun.

The head of the North Korean delegation, Ri Son Gwon, said in opening remarks: "We came to this meeting today with the thought of giving our brethren, who have high hopes for this dialogue, invaluable results as the first present of the year ..."

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