High-level delegations from the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea and the Republic of Korea are preparing to meet face-to-face. It’s the Dialogue at the DMZ, in the so-called ‘Peace village’ of Panmunjom.
As CGTN’s Nathan King explains, it’s their first formal meeting in more than two-years.
After no talks for two years, anticipation is high at the border village of Panmunjom.
Both sides will have a five-member team of negotiators: the DPRK delegation headed by Ri Son Gwon, chairman of the Committee for Peaceful Reunification of the Fatherland, and the Republic of Korea’s team headed by Minister of Unification, Cho Myong-gyon.
The talks will focus on whether the DPRK can send athletes to the upcoming Winter Olympics hosted by Seoul. Pyongyang is hoping to send its world class figure skaters.
But other issues may be raised at the talks, including the reunion of families divided by the Korean War in the early 1950s, as well as humanitarian aid for the North.
It’s widely hoped that the talks – which come in response to an overture by the DPRK leader Kim Jong-un in his New Year’s speech – will de-escalate tensions and potentially pave the way for talks over Pyongyang’s nuclear and ballistic missile testing.
A possible breakthrough in diplomatic ties- for the first time in nearly two years, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea has re-opened its ‘hotline’ communication channel with the Republic of Korea.
China is welcoming the talks and calling for widespread support from other nations.
“As a close neighbor of the Korean Peninsula, China welcomes and supports the recent positive interactions between the DPRK and ROK for easing the bilateral relations,” a Foreign Ministry spokesperson said.
In an abrupt change of policy, the U.S. is expressing support for these talks, with Washington even suspending military exercises with the ROK for the duration of the Olympics.
Speaking at Camp David on Sunday, President Donald Trump also seemingly contradicted some members of his own cabinet, saying he hoped the talks go beyond the Olympics.
“I hope they do. I would love to see them take it beyond the Olympics. We have a very good relationship with South Korea. I would love to see it go far beyond the Olympics. And at the appropriate time we will get involved.”
Trump has also said in recent days that he would be willing to talk to the DPRK leader by phone, seemingly without conditions. This is a distinct departure from his prior ‘Rocket Man’ rhetoric, and the ‘how big is my nuclear button’ tweets from just a week ago.
North Korean Leader Kim Jong Un just stated that the “Nuclear Button is on his desk at all times.” Will someone from his depleted and food starved regime please inform him that I too have a Nuclear Button, but it is a much bigger & more powerful one than his, and my Button works!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 3, 2018
While anticipation is high for the talks, hopes for a breakthrough between the two Korea’s are far lower. Pyongyang is vowing to keeping testing and perfecting its nuclear and ballistic missile program, and the U.S. has made clear to the DPRK – and Washington’s allies in the region – that it will continue with military exercises and economic pressure. The U.S. also says it is still considering military action if Pyongyang continues on its current path.