ROK, DPRK set for high level meeting

Editor:Sharon Lee
Source:嶄忽晩烏
Updated:2018-01-09 11:34:42

  SEOUL - The Republic of Korea and the Democratic People's Republic of Korea will discuss issues of mutual concern, including military and humanitarian issues which the ROK raised last year, during the upcoming high-level talks, Seoul's Unification Ministry said on Monday.

  Ministry spokesman Baek Tae-hyun told a news conference that the upcoming dialogue will first focus on the DPRK's participation in the Pyeongchang Winter Olympic and Paralympic Games.

  The 2018 Winter Olympics was scheduled for Feb 9-25 in Pyeongchang in the eastern Gangwon province of the ROK. The Winter Paralympic Games will run on March 9-18 at the same venue.

  Issues of mutual concern to improve inter-Korean relations will be on the dialogue agenda, such as urgent issues which the ROK proposed in July, the spokesman said.

  China welcomed such a move to improve ties, Foreign Ministry spokesman Lu Kang said on Monday.

  "We hope the international community can support Pyongyang and Seoul's efforts to find a way to reduce tensions and restore talks," he said.

  Lu said Beijing, which has been playing a constructive role in solving the Korean Peninsula issue, will continue to follow closely the developments of the situation and work to persuade all parties to get back to negotiation.

  The new ROK government had offered to hold military talks with the DPRK to stop any hostile act near the military demarcation line dividing the two countries and humanitarian talks for the reunion of separated families.

  People from the countries have been banned from visiting and contacting each other since the 1950-53 Korean War ended in an armistice, not a peace treaty. The Korean Peninsula remains technically in a state of war.

  Those would be discussed during the senior-level, intergovernmental dialogue on Tuesday at Peace House in the ROK side of the truce village of Panmunjom.

  The dialogue mood between the two sides came as top DPRK leader Kim Jong-un said in his New Year's address that his country was willing to participate in the ROK-hosted Winter Olympics and talk with Seoul about it.

  Just a day after Kim's New Year speech, Seoul suggested holding talks with Pyongyang. The DPRK accepted without any change of the dialogue venue and time the ROK had proposed.

  Issues which the DPRK was expected to raise on Tuesday could be the annual ROK-US war games.

  Moon and US President Donald Trump agreed last week that the two allies would not conduct the springtime exercise, code-named Key Resolve and Foal Eagle, during the Winter Olympic period.

  The DPRK could demand the halt of the ROK-US military exercises this year in return for Pyongyang's suspension of provocation to keep the inter-Korean dialogue mood alive.

  Kaesong industrial zone

  Other issues that Pyongyang was forecast to put on the dialogue agenda could be the resumption of tours to Mount Kumgang and the reopening of the Kaesong Industrial Complex.

  The industrial zone in the DPRK's border town of Kaesong was closed down by the ROK in February 2016 in response to Pyongyang's fourth nuclear test in the previous month.

  The tourism project to the DPRK's scenic resort of Mount Kumgang, launched in 1998, has been suspended since a female tourist from the ROK was shot dead in July 2008 by a DPRK soldier after allegedly venturing into an off-limit area.

  The countries exchanged the lists of its respective five-member delegation over the weekend for the talks, which would mark the first such dialogue in about two years. The last was held in December 2015.

  The ROK delegation will be led by Unification Minister Cho Myoung-gyon, while the DPRK side will be led by Ri Son-gwon, chairman of the Committee for the Peaceful Reunification of the Fatherland.