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North Korea Accepts South Korean Proposal for Talks on Pyeongchang 2018 Participation

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In this Sept. 27, 2016 file photo, security personnel stands by a logo of the 2018 PyeongChang Olympic Winter Games before an event to mark the start of the 500-day countdown in Seoul, South Korea. Photo: Lee Jin-man / Associated Press

North Korea has accepted a proposal from South Korea to hold official talks regarding the country’s participation at this year’s Winter Olympic Games in Pyeongchang.

The meeting is set to take place on Tuesday (January 9) at the Peace House in Panmunjeom, located in the demilitarized zone which is also known as the Joint Security Area.

Discussions on North Korea competing at next month’s Olympics will be among the main items on the agenda during the talks, the first to officially be held between the two countries in more than two years.

It is not yet clear who will attend the crucial meeting.

South Korean Unification Ministry spokesman Baik Tae-hyun said they had received a fax from North Korea at 10:16 a.m. local time confirming their acceptance of the meeting.

It came hours after South Korea and the United States agreed to halt joint military exercises during the Winter Olympics and Paralympics, marking another positive indication that North Korea will take part at the Games.

North Korea and South Korea have not held official high-level talks since December 2015 following escalating tension in the region, leading to security fears over how it affects the Games.

Relations appear to have eased in recent days following Kim Jong-un’s New Year’s Day speech, where he revealed North Korea hoped to compete at Pyeongchang 2018.

Kim claimed that North Korea planned to open talks with its neighbors in Seoul shortly to negotiate its team’s participation at the Games.

While Kim suggested the country may take part in the Games during his New Year address, the North Korean leader also warned that 2017 was the year that his nation became a fully fledged nuclear power.

He called on South Korea to abandon plans to hold military exercises with the US next February and March.

This was confirmed by South Korea and the White House yesterday.

Experts in the US had been debating the merits of halting the military exercises scheduled to take place near the Korean Peninsula.

Some had suggested it would be a positive move but others had claimed it would be too risky and could empower Kim even further.

The postponement of the military drills, conducted jointly between South Korea and the US every February and March, followed the reopening of a line of communication between North and South Korea, which had previously been dormant for over two years.

Pairs skaters Ryom Tae-Ok and Kim Ju-Sik are the only North Korean athletes to have so far qualified for Pyeongchang 2018.

They missed a deadline last month to accept their spot, although they could still be allowed to participate.

It remains possible that other athletes from North Korea could also be given wildcards.

South Korea have been strongly supportive of North Korean involvement in the Games, which they hope could lead to a reduction in tensions and potential diplomatic talks.

The International Olympic Committee and Pyeongchang 2018 have also spoke in favor of North Korean participation.

By Liam Morgan

Republished with permission from insidethegames.biz

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