Following a rare diplomatic overture from North Korea, South Korea on Tuesday offered to enter into high-level talks with rival North Korea and called for swift measures to facilitate North Korea’s participation in the 2018 Winter Olympics in PyeongChang.
In his annual New Year’s Day address televised on Monday, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un said he hoped “for (a) peaceful resolution with our southern border.” Kim declared that he wished to see peace on the Korean peninsula, noting that North Korean representatives should begin dialogues with their South Korean counterparts “as soon as possible” to discuss sending a delegation to the Winter Olympics being hosted in South Korea in February.
According to the Associated Press, Kim also posed nuclear threats against the United States in his speech. Analysts believe Kim’s offer might be an effort to come between South Korea and the U.S. in an attempt to reduce international isolation and sanctions against North Korea.
South Korean President Moon Jae-in, a longtime advocate for better relations with the North, characterized Kim’s overture “as a response to our proposal to turn the Pyeongchang Olympic Games into an epoch-making opportunity to improve inter-Korean relations and establish peace.”
Moon declared that he would order the Unification Ministry — the government department responsible for inter-Korean relations — and the Ministry of Culture and Sports “to quickly come up with follow-up measures for the speedy restoration of South-North Korean dialogue and realize the North Korean delegation’s participation in the PyeongChang Olympics.”
On Tuesday, South Korean Unification Minister Cho Myoung-gyon suggested that talks with North Korea might take place as soon as Jan. 9, in the border village of Panmunjom in the Demilitarized Zone.
During a news briefing in Seoul, Cho said, “The government proposes the North to hold high level inter-Korean government talks at the Peace House of Panmunjom in consideration that the Winter Olympics is about a month away and to discuss related matters such as the participation of North Korea’s delegation in the PyongChang Olympics.”