People watch a TV report on inter-Korean high-level talks at Seoul Station in Seoul, South Korea, 09 January 2018.
People watch a TV report on inter-Korean high-level talks at Seoul Station in Seoul, South Korea, 09 January 2018.

North and South Korea hold first meeting in more than two years


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The two Koreas on Tuesday began their first meeting in more than two years with a focus on facilitating the North Korean participation in the Winter Olympic Games, but also aimed at defusing the regional tension, the Ministry of Unification of South Korea told EFE.

Held in the truce village of Panmunjom, located on the militarized inter-Korean border, the high-level meeting is the first of its kind since December 2015 between the two countries that have technically been at war for more than 65 years and do not officially have diplomatic relations.

After the inaugural speeches, both delegations - consisting of five members each - completed the hour-long first session of discussion and after a half an hour break have started the second round, the South Korean Unification Ministry said.

Head of the North Korean delegation is Ri Son-gwon, who leads the Committee for the Peaceful Reunification of Korea, while the South's is led by the Unification Minister Cho Myoung-gyon, who is accompanied by two vice ministers of Unification and two others of Culture, Sports and Tourism.

According to the text of his opening speech, provided by the Unification Ministry, Ri said relations between the two Koreas were more frozen than even the current weather, referring to the exceptionally cold winter on the Korean peninsula this year.

He added that despite the frost, the people's will to improve relations had remained intact.

Before the meeting, the North said that the meeting should be recorded and jointly broadcast on television - given the huge national and international media attention - but the South rejected this proposal.

South Korean minister Cho argued that it was better to have the meeting in private and talk to the media when necessary, since the discussions have been stalled for a long time and there is much to say.

South Korean President Moon Jae-in is following the meeting - being held in the Peace House at the southern end of Panmunjom - on a video link and has an open fax line to give instruction to the South Korean delegation if necessary, the unification ministry said.

The ministry believes that the North Korean leader Kim Jong-un also has a similar system available, although they did not confirm this.

The meeting comes after the North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, in his New Year's address, expressed his wish to improve inter-Korean ties through dialogue, as offered by South Korean President Moon Jae-in and to send a delegation to the PyeongChang Winter Olympics.

North Korea's participation in the Winter Olympics, to be held in South Korea's PyeongChang County in February, could lower the regional tension after 2017 was marked by North Korea's persistent weapons tests and US President Donald Trump's belligerent response to the regime.

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