by J. Krishna Moorthi:
Officials from North Korea accepted South Korea’s offer and will send athletes to next month’s Winter Olympics, the two sides announced, as they held long-anticipated talks on Tuesday.
In their opening statement, South Korea mentioned further denuclearization talks between the two countries, but the point was not acknowledged by North Korean officials in early discussions.
“In addition, we proposed resuming temporary reunions of families separated by war and holding inter-Korean Red Cross talks to discuss this,” Chun Hae-sung, South Korean Vice Unification Minister, said after the morning talks.
North Korea officially agreed to send athletes, officials and reporters to the games, as well as its cheer leading group and taekwondo demonstration athletes. The two sides said they would negotiate over whether their cheer leading groups would perform as one.
These are the first inter-Korean talks in 25 months. They come just eight days after the North Korean leader announced he would like to send a delegation to the Winter Olympics during his annual New Year’s Day speech.
The South welcomed the proposal, and followed up by reconnecting the direct communication link at the joint security area between North and South Korea.
North Korea sent a delegation to the Summer Olympics in 2016, but last sent a team to the Winter Olympics in 2010, skipping the 2014 games held in Sochi, Russia.
As proposed for 2018, North Korea and South Korea marching together in the Opening Ceremonies is not unheard of. The two countries marched under the Korean Unification Flag during the Summer Olympics in 2000 and 2004, and the Winter Olympics in 2006. The countries competed separately each time.
The talks also come as U.S. President Donald Trump is having a war of words with Kim — recently taunting the North Korean leader by saying his “nuclear button” was “much bigger & more powerful” than his.