08:35 GMT29 November 2020
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    WASHINGTON (Sputnik) - North and South Korea appear to be seriously considering launching negotiations when senior officials from both sides meet for exploratory talks on January 9, retired United Kingdom diplomat Jonathan Clarke told Sputnik.

    Seoul is proposing to hold high-level talks on January 9 with Pyongyang at Panmunjom village in the demilitarized zone (DMZ) between the two countries, South Korea's Unification Minister Cho Myoung-gyon said on Tuesday.

    The minister suggested holding talks at Panmunjom after North Korean leader Kim Jong-un expressed hopes that the country's athletes would take part in the upcoming Winter Olympic Games set to take place in South Korea in February.

    "I do sense that, despite all the puerile rhetoric, there is a chance that things are reaching a critical mass whereby some form of talks become possible," Clarke, a former UK Foreign Office official, told Sputnik.

    South Korean Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-wha held a phone conversation with US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson on Wednesday, explaining the position of Seoul regarding possible talks with Pyongyang, the South Korean Foreign Ministry said in a statement.

    Unusually soft rhetoric from the North Korean leader toward his southern neighbor has sparked considerable speculation as to whether he is indicating his readiness for a major shift in his country’s foreign policy.

    Wearing a Western-style suit instead of his traditional Mao-style jacket, North Korean leader Kim Jong-un said in his New Year address that he wanted to ease tensions with South Korea and that he was willing to send his country's delegation to the 2018 Pyeongchang Olympics.

    Clarke noted that Pyongyang was attempting to project a more moderate and reassuring image to the South Korean government whose leader, President Moon Jae-in, was an architect and supporter of the former "Sunshine" policy of seeking to engage North Korea peacefully and constructively.

    It "looks like Pyongyang knows how to play its cards with some tactical finesse," Clarke said.

    On Wednesday, Reuters reported that Kim reopened a cross-border communication channel with South Korea in the truce village of Panmunjom for the first time in nearly two years.

    However, US Envoy to the United Nations Nikki Haley said this week that the United States would not recognize any possible talks between the North and the South unless the talks resulted in a ban of all nuclear weapons on the Korean Peninsula.

    The views and opinions expressed in the article do not necessarily reflect those of Sputnik.


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