In the first sign of an easing of tensions between North and South Korea in more than two years, the rogue state has accepted an offer to meet its southern neighbour for diplomatic talks.
Scheduled for January 9, Seoul’s Unification Ministry announced their first formal dialogue would centre on finding ways to cooperate on the upcoming Winter Olympics in the South and how to improve overall ties.
The meeting has been seen as a sign of easing animosities that have followed a year of rising nuclear tensions with many fearing an outbreak of war on the Korean Peninsular.
On Friday morning, North Korea sent a message saying it would accept South Korea’s offer to meet at the border village of Panmunjom.
Spokesman Baik Tae-hyun said he expects the two Koreas to exchange messages to determine who would head each other’s delegations and other issues.
The announcement came hours after the United States said it has agreed to delay annual joint military exercises with South Korea until after the Winter Olympics, which run from February 9 to 25.
The exercises have been a major source of tension because North Korea considers them an invasion rehearsal, although South Korea and the United States have repeatedly said the drills are defensive in nature.
Despite critics who say the North’s abrupt push for improving ties was a tactic to divide Seoul and Washington in a bid to ease pressure on sanctions, many see any dialogue between the two countries as a positive step.
North Korea’s leader Kim Jong-un opened the way for talks with South Korea in his New Year’s Day speech, calling for reduced tensions on the Korean peninsula. He also flagged the North’s possible participation in the Winter Olympics and remained committed to producing nuclear missiles, warning he would launch a nuclear strike if necessary.
US President Donald Trump is yet to formally respond to the announcement of formal talks, but took to Twitter to say the scheduled talks were “a good thing”.
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
Past breakthroughs to ease Korean tensions have often ended with renewed animosities but the North will agree to send a delegation to the Winter Olympics and refrain from provocations during the Games.
Tensions could return afterward because the North has no intentions of abandoning its weapons programs and the US will not ease its pressure on the country, analysts say.