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North Korea accepts proposal for talks next week on Olympics

14 January 2018

South Korea and the United States have been in close consultation over the rare cross-border talks proposed for Tuesday, and the allies are "synced up very well", department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said.

North Korea restored a telephone hotline at their mutual border, enabling first contact about talks to be made, and now face-to-face discussions should take place next week. "I very much want to see it work out between the two countries", Trump said, referring to North Korea accepting South Korea's proposal for official talks in what will be the first high-level contact between the two countries in more than two years.

The talks between North Korea and South Korea are expected to cover the Winter Olympics, to be held in South Korea next month, and inter-Korean relations.

North Korea accepts proposal for talks next week on Olympics
North Korea accepts proposal for talks next week on Olympics

The tentative rapprochement comes after the North's leader Kim Jong-Un warned in his New Year speech that he had a nuclear button on his desk, but at the same time offered Seoul an olive branch, saying Pyongyang could send a team to next month's Winter Olympics in the South.

In a phone call earlier in the day, South Korean President Moon Jae-in and US President Donald Trump agreed to postpone the allies' annual military exercises until after the games. Seoul maintains that the presence of figures in the delegation who have been included as targets for independent sanctions by South Korea - including Workers' Party vice chairman Choe Ryong-hae and United Front Department director Kim Yong-chol - bears no direct connection with sanctions against the North.

Asked if that meant there would be no prerequisites for such talk, the president said: "That's not what I said at all". The head of USA forces in South Korea warned on Thursday against raising hopes over North Korea's peace overture. And North Korea has no military reason to stop its nuclear program.

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Choi said that if North Korean athletes are willing to participate, "the International Sports Federations has the right to use the wildcard" to accommodate their entry. "It could be a meeting about the Olympics and nothing else happens".

A Japanese government spokesman said Japan would do what's necessary to keep up the pressure on Pyongyang to give up its weapons programs.

Mr Cho, 61, played a key role in preparing for a summit in October 2007 between late South Korean president Roh Moo Hyun and then North Korean leader Kim Jong Il.

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Japanese Defence Minister Itsunori Onodera sounded a note of caution about the proposed talks. "North Korea goes through phases of apparent dialogue and provocation, but either way, North Korea is continuing its nuclear and missile development. We have no intention of weakening our warning and surveillance". It ought to keep a close consultation with the USA to send a united message. This is why South Korea must keep a rock-solid USA alliance.

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North Korea accepts proposal for talks next week on Olympics