North and South Korea have agreed to high-level talks next week, reported Yonhap on Friday, Jan. 5.
Seoul’s unification ministry confirmed that Pyongyang had notified its acceptance of the South’s latest offer for high-level talks. The talks are scheduled for Jan. 9.
The main item on the agenda is discussing the potential for North Korea’s participation in the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, ministry spokesman Baik Tae-hyun told press at a regular briefing.
The 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics will be from Feb. 9 through to Feb. 15 in an alpine town located just 50 miles south of the border.
“The two sides decided to discuss working-level issues by exchanging documents,” Tae-hyun told the press briefing, reported Yonhap.
The talks will be the first inter-Korean dialogue since December 2015.
According to the Yonhap report, experts have said that North Korea’s overture to the South may be aimed at weakening the international commitment to economic sanctions on Pyongyang and driving a wedge between Seoul and Washington in their decades-long alliance.
President Donald Trump tweeted on Tuesday, “Sanctions and ‘other’ pressures are beginning to have a big impact on North Korea. Soldiers are dangerously fleeing to South Korea. Rocket man now wants to talk to South Korea for first time,” referring to the international sanctions pushed by his administration over Pyongyang’s nuclear and ballistic missile programs.
On Thursday, Trump tweeted that his “firm” and “strong” leadership was the impetus for North Korea’s new willingness for talks with the South.
With all of the failed “experts” weighing in, does anybody really believe that talks and dialogue would be going on between North and South Korea right now if I wasn’t firm, strong and willing to commit our total “might” against the North. Fools, but talks are a good thing!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 4, 2018
South Korea and the United States agreed late Thursday night to delay joint military drills in the region in the leadup to the Winter Olympics.
Both leaders “agreed to de-conflict the Olympics and our military exercises so that [the] United States and Republic of Korea forces can focus on ensuring the security of the games,” according to a White House statement.
The drills have long been denounced by North Korea as an “act of war,” using them as an excuse their its provocations. But South Korea and the U.S. said that the exercises are for defense purposes.