North and South Korea start first official talks in more than two years

Vastavam web: North and South Korea began their first official talks in more than two years today, focussing on the forthcoming Winter Olympics after months of tensions over Pyongyang’s nuclear weapons programme.The talks in Panmunjom, the truce village in the Demilitarized Zone that divides the peninsula, came after the North’s leader Kim Jong-Un indicated in his New Year’s speech that he could send a delegation to next month’s Games in Pyeongchang in the South.The North’s group, of similar size and led by senior official Ri Son-Gwon, walked over the Military Demarcation Line at Panmunjom for the talks, pictures showed — just yards from where a defector ran across in a hail of bullets two months ago.

Looking businesslike, Cho and Ri shook hands at the entrance to the Peace House, the building on the southern side where the discussions were being held, and again across the table.In accordance with standard practice in the North, Ri wore a badge on his left lapel bearing an image of the country’s founding father Kim Il-Sung and his son and successor Kim Jong-Il. Cho also wore a lapel badge, depicting the South Korean flag.Cho told him that Seoul believed the Pyeongchang Games “will become a peace Olympics as most valuable guests from the North are going to join many others from all around the world”.

“The people have a strong desire to see the North and South move toward peace and reconciliation,” he added.Seoul has been keen to proclaim the Games in Pyeongchang, just 80 kilometres south of the DMZ, as a “peace Olympics” in the wake of missile and nuclear tests by the North — but it needs Pyongyang to attend to make the description meaningful.If the North agrees, one of the top agenda items will be whether the two Koreas’ sports people make joint entrances to the opening and closing ceremonies, as they did for Sydney 2000, Athens 2004 and the 2006 Winter Games in Turin.The group may stay on a cruise ship in Sokcho, about an hour’s drive from the Olympic venue, which would enable their movements to be closely monitored and controlled.