Two Korea’s open door for possible talks on nuclear issues

January 3, 2018

SEOUL – Moves are under way to arrange formal preliminary talks between North and South Korea at Panmunjom on the North/South border on January 9 following comments by North Korea’s leader, Kim Jong-un, in his New Year message.

South Korea’s Ministry for Unification says it has proposed to Pyongyang that North Korea send a delegation for discussions with South Korean officials in February, during the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang.

In Beijing on Tuesday, a Foreign Ministry spokesman said China supports the idea of North and South Korea using the 2018 Winter Olympics to improve ties.

"We have noticed the positive information from the leaders of the two countries . . . It is a good thing," Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said at a regular news conference in Beijing.

"China welcomes and supports both countries to use the 2018 Winter Olympics as an opportunity to make effective efforts to improve their relations, relax the situation on the Korean Peninsula and promote denuclearisation of the peninsula."

In Seoul, South Korea’s Presidential Office released a statement welcoming North Korean leader Kim Jong-un's proposal to bring the two Koreas together for talks ahead of the PyeongChang 2018 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games.

In his New Year's speech, Kim declared his wish for a "peaceful resolution with our southern border" and offered talks about sending a delegation to the Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang next month.
At a press briefing on Monday, Park Soo-hyun, on behalf of South Korea’s Blue House (Presidential Office), said: "If the PyeongChang Winter Games are able to set the stage for an Olympics of Peace, it would help propagate peace and harmony across the Korean Peninsula, Northeast Asia and the entire world."
He added: "For matters related to restoring North-South relations and establishing peace on the Korean Peninsula, Cheong Wa Dae (the Blue House) has expressed its willingness to engage in dialogue with Pyongyang without restriction as to time, place or formality."
He said the Blue House wanted North and South Korea to co-operate closely with the international community to resolve the nuclear weapons issue in a peaceful manner.
"The North and South, as the parties directly affected by issues on the Korean Peninsula, should responsibly face one another to find ways to reduce tension and establish peace in the region," he said.

On Tuesday, South Korea’s Ministry of Unification held an urgent press conference to comment on a formal proposal to hold high-level talks with North Korea. 

"Taking into consideration that the PyeongChang 2018 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games are now only a month away, we have sent a proposal to Pyongyang to hold high-level talks at the Panmunjeom truce village on January 9," said Minister of Unification, Cho Myoung-Gyon.
"During the talks, we would discuss the possibility of North Korea sending a delegation to the PyeongChang Olympics.

"We look forward to the launch of talks between the North and South, during which the two sides will be able to sit face-to-face and discuss not only the upcoming Winter Olympics but issues directly related to improving inter-Korean ties.

“Once again, we want to make clear that our side is willing to engage in dialogue with Pyongyang without restriction as to time, place or level of formality," he stressed.

The Minister added: "In order for high-level talks between North and South Korea to take place, we will need to swiftly normalise inter-Korean communication channels at the Panmunjeom truce village.

”Through this channel, we hope to open discussions about the meeting agenda, the makeup of the delegation, and other specific procedures. We look forward to hearing an optimistic response from the North."

When asked if he believes high-level talks would help restore inter-Korean relations, the Minister replied that the main agenda item of the January 9 talks would be Pyongyang's participation in the PyeongChang Winter Games.
"However, given that dialogue between the North and South was severed for a very long time, and given that Kim Jong-un expressly stated that he hopes to improve inter-Korean relations, we are hopeful that a face-to-face meeting would allow for the two sides to bring a number of other mutual interests to the table," he said.
Earlier on Tuesday, South Korea’s President, Moon Jae-in, held the Administration's first Cabinet meeting of 2018.

Referring to Kim Jong-un's New Year's speech, the President instructed related Government bodies to make arrangements to respond to the North Korean leader's conciliatory message. (ATI).