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Two Koreas set to arrange details ahead of next week's talks

All News 08:00 January 06, 2018

SEOUL, Jan. 6 (Yonhap) -- South and North Korea are set Saturday to arrange the details of high-level talks next week over the North's potential participation in the PyeongChang Winter Olympics.

The two Koreas agreed Friday to hold their first official dialogue in more than two years next Tuesday at the border truce village of Panmunjom.

Over the weekend, they will discuss the details, including the composition of their delegations to the talks, via the recently reopened hotline across the border, according to Seoul's unification ministry.

In his New Year's speech, North Korean leader Kim Jong-un sent a rare conciliatory message that he is willing to dispatch a delegation to the Feb. 9-25 Winter Olympics hosted by the South.

"The main agenda items will include how to improve inter-Korean relations, including (the North's participation in) the games," Baik Tae-hyun, a Unification Ministry spokesman, told a press briefing Friday.

Two Koreas set to arrange details ahead of next week's talks - 1

The government of liberal President Moon Jae-in has expressed hopes that the North's participation will ease tensions on the peninsula, which have flared up due to North Korea's nuclear and missile provocations.

Moon also hopes that better inter-Korean relations will pave the way for the resolution of the North Korean nuclear issue and for broader talks between the U.S. and the North.

South Korea's presidential office Cheong Wa Dae said that the two sides may discuss ways to improve relations, but only after they finalize the Olympics issue.

Possible agenda items with regard to the Olympics include whether the North's delegation would travel by land and whether the two Koreas would march together under a unified Korean flag at the opening and closing ceremonies.

If they travel by land, there needs to be consultation between the military authorities of each side.

If the North sends a cheering squad or a performing arts and singing team, the two sides must consult over details such as travel route, accommodation and security.

The cost of accommodation and other expenses may be addressed in the discussions.

The International Olympics Committee (IOC) said that it is willing to cover the costs of the North's athletes if Pyongyang takes part in the games.

Seoul covered similar costs in the past using inter-Korean cooperative funds when North Korean athletes took part in international sporting events held in South Korea.

It is likely that Unification Minister Cho Myoung-gyon will be the South's chief delegate and that the North's delegation will be led by Ri Son-gwon, chairman of the Committee for the Peaceful Reunification of the Country, North Korea's state agency in charge of inter-Korean affairs.

Cho, 61, is a veteran negotiator with extensive experience in inter-Korean dialogue. He played a key role in preparing for the South-North summit held in 2007.

Ri announced Wednesday that the North's ruler ordered the reopening of the hotline, vowing that North Korea will agree to participate in inter-Korean talks.

sooyeon@yna.co.kr
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