TOKYO (Sputnik) — Delegations of Seoul and Pyongyang began talks at a ministerial level on ways to improve relations and on the possible participation of North Korean athletes in the upcoming Olympic Games in Pyeongchang, local media reported on Tuesday.
According to the Yonhap agency, the negotiations began at 10.00 (01.00 GMT). The two delegations led by North Korea's Ri Son Gwon, chairman of the Committee for the Peaceful Reunification of Korea, and South Korea's Cho Myoung-gyon, Unification Minister, met in the so-called Peace House in the demilitarized zone at the border village of Panmunjom, where representatives of the two countries have repeatedly held negotiations in the past.
Negotiations are being held in closed mode, without journalists. The YTN broadcaster, has made a model of the complex of buildings in Panmunjom in the studio and shows a computer image of the negotiation table with virtual delegates in order to fill the void on the air. According to the broadcaster, the two delegations had to exchange handshakes and statements.
In the New Year's address North Korean leader Kim Jong Un allowed the participation of the country's athletes in the Olympics, and both sides began preparations for the bilateral high-level talks.
Apart from North Korea’s participation in the Pyeongchang Winter Olympic Games, the sides may address a range of issues, including reunion of families, separated in the aftermath of the Korean War, as well as the issue of reducing tensions on the Korean Peninsula, according to Cho Myoung-gyon.
Furthermore, the sides are expected to raise the issue of termination of the US-South Korean military drills during the upcoming 2018 Winter Olympics, given that US President Donald Trump and South Korean leader Moon Jae-in made such decision during a phone call on Thursday in order to ensure the safety of the games.
"I came here with hopes that the two Koreas hold talks with a sincere and faithful attitude to give precious results to the Korean people who harbor high expectations for this meeting, as the first new year present," the chairman of the North Korea's Committee for the Peaceful Reunification of Korea, Ri Son Gwon, was quoted by the Yonhap news agency as saying at the start of the talks.
South Korean Unification Minister Cho Myoung-gyon noted in response that hese talks started after long-frayed inter-Korean ties.
"Well begun is half done. I hope that (the two sides) could hold the talks with determination and persistence," he stressed.