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Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 11 December 2018

South Korea offers talks with North on Olympics 

Seoul is suggesting that high-ranking officials from both sides meet at the border village of Panmunjom

South Korean unification minister Cho Myoung-gyon speaks in a press conference at the government complex in Seoul, South Korea, on January 2, 2018. EPA
South Korean unification minister Cho Myoung-gyon speaks in a press conference at the government complex in Seoul, South Korea, on January 2, 2018. EPA

South Korea proposed holding talks on January 9 with North Korea to discuss participation in the Winter Olympics next month.

South Korea is suggesting that high-ranking officials from both sides meet at the border village of Panmunjom, unification minister Cho Myoung-gyon said in Seoul on Tuesday. It would be the first formal meeting between the two Koreas since 2015.

“We expect to sit down with North Korea face-to-face and frankly discuss mutual interests aimed at better inter-Korean relations,” Mr Cho said, reaffirming the government’s willingness to talk to leader Kim Jong-un and his officials without conditions. “We look forward to Pyongyang’s positive reaction to this.”

Read more: Kim vows North Korea will mass-produce nuclear warheads and missiles

President Moon Jae-in ordered his government to act swiftly on Mr Kim's offer to send a delegation to the Winter Olympics and improve overall ties. Since taking power last year, Mr Moon has sought to ease tensions with North Korea through dialogue, offers of aid and an invitation to participate in the Olympic Games in Pyeongchang, a city not far from the border dividing the Korean peninsula.

“Improving inter-Korean relations and resolving the North Korean nuclear issue are not separate from each other,” Mr Moon said.

Any talks must be closely co-ordinated with South Korea’s allies and the international community, he added.

Mr Kim on Monday called for talks with Seoul to ensure the success of the Winter Olympics after repeatedly shunning Mr Moon’s offer for dialogue.

North Korea's tests of missiles and nuclear devices have prompted the United Nations to tighten sanctions on Mr Kim's regime, while president Donald Trump has warned of military action to stop threats to the US.