Following the first direct talks in two years, negotiations between North and South Korea revolving around Pyongyang’s participation in February’s Winter Olympic Games have produced an agreement to hold military talks aiming to reduce nuclear tension with Seoul.
Representatives from North and South Korea met for the first time in over two years on Tuesday.
According to South Korean officials, Seoul proposed reuniting families separated by the Korean War, military dialogue, halting hostile action which causes anxiety on the peninsula, and the reopening of talks on Pyongyang’s nuclear program.
Held at the Korean border village of Panmunjom — located in the demilitarized zone separating the two countries — the meeting also brought about an agreement to resume normal communication by way of a “hotline,” which has remained dormant since early 2016.
The 11-hour talks also furnished a consensus Pyongyang would send competitors to the Olympics in Pyeongchang, with athletes being accompanied by a delegation of North Korean political officials.
Despite demonstrating flexibility on some issues, North Korea remained entirely intransigent when the nuclear issue was raised. Complaining bitterly over the proposition of discussing the North’s nuclear weapons program, top Pyongyang negotiator Ri Son Gwon said in closing remarks:
“All our weapons including atomic bombs, hydrogen bombs and ballistic missiles are only aimed at the United States, not our brethren, nor China and Russia.”
“This is not a matter between North and South Korea, and to bring up this issue would cause negative consequences and risks turning all of today’s good achievement into nothing.”
Responding to the news, a White House National Security Council spokesman said allowing North Korean involvement in the Olympics is “an opportunity for the regime to see the value of ending its international isolation by denuclearizing.”
Described by some experts as a “start” to re-energizing face-to-face negotiations, other security experts say the severe sanctions have inspired outreach from the North or the agreement for military talks is a ruse to drive a wedge between Washington and Seoul.
[Yonhap] [Reuters] [Photo courtesy WDEF News 12]