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North Korea accepts offer from South to meet for peace talks

Story highlights

  • Pyongyang agrees to resume long-neglected talks with neighbor and rival Seoul
  • Face-to-face talks will happen January 9 within the Panmunjom truce village

South Korean Unification Ministry spokesman Baik Tae-hyun informed reporters Friday North Korea knowledgeable its southern neighbor by fax at 10:16 a.m. native time (eight:16 p.m Thursday ET) that they’ve accepted the South’s offer to provoke talks.

The person-to-person talks shall be held January ninth — sooner or later after North Korean chief Kim Jong Un’s birthday — on the Peace House, situated on the South Korean aspect of the so-called truce village of Panmunjom, situated within the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) between the 2 nations, Baik mentioned.

The spokesman mentioned the 2 sides agreed to work on the main points of the talks “through the exchange of documents,” and added the agenda gadgets of the talks shall be “issues related to improving inter-Korean relationships including the Pyeongchang (Winter) Olympic Games.”

Baik added that he understands that “the North Korean side is also scheduled to have talks with the IOC (International Olympic Committee) next week.”

When requested whether or not hotlines shall be open on the weekend, he mentioned he anticipated they’d, as time to put together for the primary face-to-face assembly in over two years was operating brief.

The faxed message accepting the long-standing offer of talks was from Ri Son Kwon, chairman of the North Korean Committee for the Peaceful Reunification of the Fatherland. It was addressed to his de facto counterpart, South Korea’s Unification Minister Cho Myoung-gyon, Baik added.

When requested by a reporter if Ri and Cho would attend the talks, Baik mentioned that the personnel who will attend the conferences is a matter that also wants to be finalized.

The final excessive degree inter-Korea talks had been a deputy ministerial assembly between South and North Korea that occurred in December 2015, on the jointly-run Kaesong industrial zone in North Korea.

The industrial park, which opened in 2004 in a uncommon present of cooperation between the 2 Koreas, was shuttered in 2016 in response to Pyongyang’s ramping-up of missile and nuclear testing.
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Thaw

The announcement of talks comes on the heels of different indicators of nascent rapprochement between the 2 rivals.

In latest days a hotline between Seoul and Pyongyang, which had remained unused for two years, rang as soon as once more, in what has been broadly considered a serious diplomatic breakthrough. At least 5 calls have been positioned by way of the cross-border channel since.

Contact between the 2 Koreas was initiated after North Korean chief Kim Jong Un expressed hope throughout his annual New Year’s day tackle North Korean delegation would possibly take part in subsequent month’s Winter Games in Pyeongchang, South Korea.

Two phones, two years: How North and South Korea reconnected

Two North Korea athletes, the determine skaters Ryom Tae-Ok and Kim Ju-sik, have certified for the Games. While Pyongyang has missed a registration deadline for the 2, it’s understood that the IOC might permit an exception to be made.

During the annual tackle, Kim additionally expressed a want for a peaceable decision to the decades-old battle with South Korea. The Korean War led to an armistice in 1953, that means that the 2 nations have technically been at struggle since.

Last yr, South Korea’s President Moon Jae-in informed CNN that North Korean participation in Pyeongchang will “provide a very good opportunity for inter-Korean peace and reconciliation.”

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Stronger hand

The superior stage of North Korea’s weapons program might afford its management the luxurious of diplomacy, mentioned Tong Zhao, a North Korea analyst and Fellow on the Carnegie Tsinghua Center for Global Policy.

“I think Kim Jong Un is now a different position after the Hwasong-15 (long-range missile) testing. At a minimum, North Korea has achieved a rudimentary strategic deterrent and can afford to not continue testing … North Korea apparently has plans to mass produce missiles and nuclear warheads but could (now) consider a moratorium on ICBM (Intercontinental Ballistic Missile) tests.”

However, regardless of potential dangers, Zhao views the resumption of talks as a optimistic signal, and considers the upcoming assembly to be a primary step in enhancing bilateral relations.

“After Kim Jong Un made the overture in his New Year address, the two sides quickly resumed the hotline and agreed to meet — the pace of development is very quick,” Zhao mentioned.

“There is an indication that North Korea wants to explore broader issues. I expect they will engage in other issues as well (at the talks) … It’s hard to tell how quickly they will settle the Olympic issue but it’s clear that both sides want to go further with these talks.”

Differing response

An analogous sense of optimism has but to prolong past the Korean peninsula.

On Thursday, Japan’s Prime Minister, Shinzo Abe, called North Korea’s nuclearization “absolutely unacceptable” and mentioned the safety state of affairs dealing with his nation is the severest since World War II.

US officers have to date maintained a equally skeptical stance relating to Kim’s sincerity in soothing tensions.

Speaking Tuesday, US Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley issued a stern warning to North Korea, saying the US “will never accept a nuclear North Korea.”

Trump, South Korea's Moon agree to no military drills during Olympics

However, indicators counsel the US’ hardline stance could also be softening in mild of latest developments. In a telephone name between US President Donald Trump and South Korean President Moon Thursday, the 2 leaders agreed not to host joint army drills in the course of the interval of Pyeongchang Olympics, in accordance to a South Korean authorities assertion.

A senior US army official additionally confirmed to CNN that there could be no joint exercises during the Games.

“(Even) if South Korea-North Korea relations improve thanks to the Olympics, the US-South Korea (military) drills will still take place after that, which could still be major reason for turbulence going forward,” mentioned Zhao, the North Korea analyst.

North Korean chief Kim Jong Un has lengthy criticized the US-South Korean drills, declaring them a direct risk to Pyongyang, and a attainable barrier to the resumption of diplomatic talks.

The determination to maintain off on army drills is a diplomatic response from the US President, who earlier this week bragged in a tweet that his nuclear button was “much bigger & more powerful” than Kim’s.

Trump has since sought to take credit score for the resumption of communications between Pyongyang and Seoul.

“With all of the failed ‘experts’ weighing in, does anybody really believe that talks and dialogue would be going on between North and South Korea right now if I wasn’t firm, strong and willing to commit our total ‘might’ against the North,” Trump tweeted Thursday morning.

“Fools, but talks are a good thing!” he added.

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