South Korean officials have said a North Korean delegation will attend the 2018 winter Olympic Games as landmark talks between the two countries commenced today (Tuesday).
The two neighbours exchanged proposals surrounding next month’s Games in Pyeongchang during the morning session of a meeting at the shared border village of Panmunjom, the first such encounter since 2015.
South Korea’s Vice-Unification Minister Chun Hae-sung said North Korea has offered to send a delegation consisting of high-ranking officials, athletes, cheering and performing art squads, taekwondo demonstration teams and journalists.
In return, South Korea has proposed the two countries march together during the opening and closing ceremonies. The South has offered to hold a Red Cross meeting in February to discuss the reunion of families separated by the 1950-53 Korean War. Korean news agency Yonhap said the South has also proposed to hold military talks to prevent “accidental conflict” along the border.
“We also raised the need to end acts that can escalate tensions on the Korean Peninsula and to resume dialogue to bring peace to the Korean Peninsula, such as (North Korea's) denuclearisation,” Chun said, according to Yonhap.
“North Korea proposed resolving issues regarding inter-Korean ties through dialogue and negotiations for peace and unity on the peninsula.”
North Korea is currently under strict international sanctions due to its growing nuclear and missile programmes. The North conducted its sixth nuclear test and fired three intercontinental ballistic missiles last year.
The South Korean government has expressed its hope that North Korea’s participation in the Olympics will act as a catalyst to help ease tensions on the peninsula and ultimately lead to a resolution over its neighbour’s nuclear ambitions.
The International Olympic Committee (IOC) yesterday (Monday) made further efforts to encourage North Korea’s participation at the 2018 Games by extending the registration deadline for athletes from the country.
At this moment in time, only two North Korean athletes have qualified for Pyeongchang 2018 in the form of figure skating pair Ryom Tae Ok and Kim Ju Sik (pictured). However, North Korea did not confirm their participation by an October deadline meaning that their entry slot went to Japan. It has been reported that North Korea could be handed wild card slots for the Games with most sports having already completed their qualifying events.
The IOC said in a statement: “With regard to the very particular situation on the Korean peninsula we need the political commitment from all parties concerned to make such a participation possible. Once this political commitment is clear the IOC will take the final decision.”