0532 GMT July 17, 2018
Representatives from North and South Koreas began direct talks on Tuesday, in the first instance of face-to-face dialog in more than two years, presstv.com reported.
The fresh talks were being held behind closed doors at the Peace House in the Joint Security Area in the truce village of Panmunjom, at the demilitarized zone (DMZ) between the divided countries.
Shortly after the talks began, media reports quoted South Korea’s vice unification minister, Chun Hae-sung, as saying that Pyongyang had said it would allow South Korean athletes, a cheering squad, and high-ranking officials to attend the upcoming Winter Olympics.
Chun said Seoul proposed that the two sides hold inter-Korean talks on how to reduce military tensions on the Korean Peninsula and the reunion of separated family members in time for the Lunar New Year holiday in February.
He did not provide specifics.
The two Koreas have long had strained ties. Tensions recently skyrocketed with repeated North Korean missile and nuclear tests and increased South Korean joint military action with the United States.
Let the deicing begin!
However, a series of overtures between the two Koreas began when North Korean leader Kim Jong-un used his annual New Year address to express interest in dialog with the South as well as in North Korean participation in the Winter Olympic Games, to be held in the South Korean city of Pyeongchang from February 9 to 25.
South Korea quickly responded by proposing high-level talks with the North on January 9 — today — which Pyongyang subsequently agreed to.
Kim also ordered that a telephone hotline between the two Koreas that had been suspended in 2016 be reopened.
North Korean leader Kim Jong-un orders that a border hotline with South Korea be reopened.
Meanwhile, North Korea has completed technical maintenance needed to reopen a military hotline with South Korea on its west coast, a South Korean government official told reporters, with normal communications via the hotline expected to resume on Wednesday.
The last high-level talks between the two neighbors was held in December 2015 to ease border tensions but ended without any agreement.
Russia and China, which are viewed as allies of North Korea, have welcomed the new negotiations.