International desk: South Korea proposed holding talks on Jan. 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 told reporters 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,” Cho said, reaffirming the government’s willingness to talk to Kim’s regime without conditions. “We look forward to Pyongyang’s positive reaction to this.”
Earlier in the day, President Moon Jae-in ordered his government to act swiftly on North Korean leader Kim Jong Un’s offer to send a delegation to the Winter Olympics and improve overall ties. Since taking power last year, 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, according to Bloomberg.
“Improving inter-Korean relations and resolving the North Korean nuclear issue are not separate from each other,” Moon said. Any talks must be closely coordinated with South Korea’s allies and the international community, he added.
Kim on Monday called for talks with Seoul to ensure the success of the Winter Olympics, an apparent tactical shift after repeatedly shunning Moon’s offer for dialogue. The North Korean leader’s tests of missiles and nuclear devices have prompted the United Nations to tighten sanctions on his regime, while President Donald Trump has warned of military action to stop threats to the U.S.