SEOUL—North and South Korea on Tuesday agreed on negotiations to resolve problems and military talks aimed at averting accidental conflict, after their first official dialogue in more than two years, as Pyongyang’s nuclear weapons program fuels tension.
In a joint statement after the 11-hour talks, the North pledged to send a large delegation to next month’s Pyeongchang Winter Olympics in the South, but made a ‘strong complaint’ after Seoul proposed talks to denuclearize the Korean peninsula.
South Korea asked its neighbor to halt hostile acts that stoke tension on the peninsula, and in return, the North agreed that peace should be guaranteed in the region, the South’s unification ministry said in a separate statement.
The talks had been closely watched by world leaders keen for any sign of a reduction in tension, as fears grow over the North’s missile launches and development of nuclear weapons, in defiance of United Nations Security Council resolutions.
Earlier on Tuesday, Seoul said it was prepared to lift some sanctions temporarily so North Korean officials could visit the South for the Games. The North said its delegation would comprise athletes, high-ranking officials, a cheering squad, art performers as well as reporters and spectators.
South Korea has unilaterally banned several North Korean officials from entry in response to Pyongyang’s ramped-up missile and nuclear tests, held despite international pressure.
However, some South Korean officials have said they see the Olympics as a possible opportunity for easing tension.
Foreign ministry spokesman Roh Kyu-deok said Seoul would consider whether it needed to take “prior steps”, together with the U.N. Security Council and other relevant countries, to help the North Koreans visit for the Olympics.
Working talks will be held soon to work out the details of bringing the North Koreans to the Olympics, the statement said, with the exact schedule to be decided via documented exchanges.
By Christine Kim and Hyonhee Shin