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(LEAD) S. Korea offers high-level talks with N.K. next week

All News 14:33 January 02, 2018

(ATTN: RECASTS lead; UPDATES with more info throughout)

SEOUL, Jan. 2 (Yonhap) -- South Korea on Tuesday proposed high-level talks with North Korea next week over its participation in the PyeongChang Winter Olympics, in response to leader Kim Jong-un's reconciliatory New Year message the previous day.

Unification Minister Cho Myoung-gyon proposed that the two Koreas meet next Tuesday at the truce village of Panmunjom in the heavily fortified demilitarized zone.

(LEAD) S. Korea offers high-level talks with N.K. next week - 1

"We hope that South and North Korea will sit down to discuss the North's participation in the games and ways to improve inter-Korean ties in a frank manner," Cho said at a press conference.

"The government has a willingness to have dialogue with the North regardless of timing, place and format," the minister said.

In a New Year's speech on Monday, Kim said that Pyongyang is open to dialogue with Seoul, hinting at its willingness to take part in the Winter Games to be held in South Korea on Feb. 9-25.

Kim's surprise offer came as the South is pinning hopes on the North's participation in the games because it believes that the move could help ease tensions on the Korean Peninsula. South Korea's presidential office welcomed Kim's olive branch.

If realized, it would mark the first high-level inter-Korean talks since December 2015.

"We think that the suspended inter-Korean communication channels should be immediately restored. We propose that the two Koreas discuss details of talks including agenda items and the composition of delegations through the channel at the truce village," Cho said.

Key communication channels between the two Koreas are not operating as the North cut off them in February 2016 in protest against Seoul's shutdown of an inter-Korean industrial complex.


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