Inter-Korean dialogue: Military level talks likely to be first formal dialogue

Military talks are expected to be the first formal dialogue between South Korea and North Korea following an unprecedented visit to the South by a high-level delegation that included the sister of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, an official from South Korean presidential office said.

While agreeing to participate in the PyeongChang Winter Olympics, the North also agreed during last month’s talks with the South to hold military talks. But the two sides haven’t decided when to hold what is expected to be a working-level military meeting.

How inter-Korean relations will move ahead after the Olympics is a key focus of attention after the North’s high-level delegation paid a visit from Friday through Sunday that significantly warmed cross-border ties, which had been badly frayed due to nuclear and missile tensions.

Yonhap news agency quoted an official from the South Korean presidential office saying; “The South and the North are expected to move ahead with what has already been agreed first. There is a high possibility of the two sides holding working-level military talks first and then raising the level (of talks) gradually.”

The official also said humanitarian aid to the North is expected to be on the back burner as the North is negative about it.

Meanwhile, South Korean Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-wha promised to pull through new diplomatic challenges actively and creatively after North Korea invited the South’s president to an inter-Korean summit.

While addressing the newly appointed heads of overseas missions on Monday, Kang said: “There is a new diplomatic situation waiting for the foreign ministry after the PyeongChang Olympics. We need to muster all the power of our ministry to turn things around and move them forward.”

On the other hand, North Korea is increasing tension with the United States in an escalating war of words, urging the latter to stop slandering the regime’s peace efforts during the ongoing winter Olympics.

“If Pence wants to avoid experiencing a hot agony of shame on the stage of the Olympics, he had better stop behaving imprudently and clearly learn about how ardently the compatriots of the north and the south of Korea wish to reunify the country by their concerted efforts and quietly disappear,” the Rodong Sinmun, the propaganda newspaper of Pyongyang’s Workers’ Party of Korea, said in a commentary Monday.

Relations between South Korea and North Korea have warmed rapidly in recent weeks after North Korean leader Kim Jong-un said in his New Year’s Day address that the country was willing to participate in the PyeongChang Winter Olympics.

The two Koreas have since worked out the details, and the North has sent not only athletes but also hundreds of other people as part of a cheering squad and an art troupe. The North’s leader also sent his only sister Kim Yo-jong as well as the country’s ceremonial head of state, Kim Yong-nam, to the South.

South Korean President Moon Jae-in talks with Kim Yo-jong, the sister on Friday

The delegation paid a visit to South Korean President Moon Jae-in on Saturday and delivered Kim Jon-un’s invitation for him to visit the North. Moon said in response that he hopes the right conditions will be created so that the proposed visit can take place.

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