Winter Olympics: North Korea’s Delegation May Feature In Pyeongchang 2018 Games
South Korea have proposed high level talks with North Korea over the country’s potential participation at the Pyeongchang 2018 Winter Olympics.
North Korea’s leader Kim Jong-un announced the country would be willing to take part in next month’s Games during a televised New Year’s Day speech.
Kim stated that the country planned to open talks with its neighbours in Seoul over their participation, with the statement the first official indication North Korea could attend.
At a press conference today, South Korea’s Minister of Unification, Cho Myoung-Gyon, proposed the talks take place on January 9.
“Taking into consideration that the Pyeongchang 2018 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games are now only a month away, we have sent a proposal to Pyongyang to hold high-level talks at the Panmunjeom truce village on January 9,” he said.
“During the talks, we would discuss the possibility of North Korea sending a delegation to the Pyeongchang Olympics.
“We look forward to the launch of talks between the North and South, during which the two sides will be able to sit face-to-face and discuss not only the upcoming Winter Olympics, but issues directly related to improving inter-Korean ties.
“Once again, we want to make clear that our side is willing to engage in dialogue with Pyongyang without restriction as to time, place or level of formality.
“In order for high-level talks between North and South Korea to take place, we will need to swiftly normalize inter-Korean communication channels at the Panmunjeom truce village.
“Through this channel, we hope to open discussions about the meeting agenda, the makeup of the delegation, and other specific procedures.
“We look forward to hearing an optimistic response from the North.”
Panmunjeom is located in the demilitarised zone between the two countries and is also known as the Joint Security Area.
The location was where the Korean Armistice Agreement was signed in 1953, which paused the Korean War.
Cho stated that while the focus of any potential meeting would surround North Korea’s involvement at Pyeongchang 2018, he hoped it could also allow for both sides to discuss mutual interests and improve dialogue between the countries.
Pairs skaters Ryom Tae-Ok and Kim Ju-Sik are the only North Korean athletes to have so far qualified for Pyeongchang 2018.
They missed a deadline last month to accept their spot, although they could still be allowed to participate.
It remains possible that other athletes from North Korea could also be given wildcards.
While Kim suggested the country may take part in the Games during his New Year address, the North Korean leader also warned that 2017 was the year that his nation became a fully fledged nuclear power.
He called on South Korea to abandon plans to hold military exercises with the US next February and March.
South Korean President Moon Jae-in had claimed last month that the drills could be postponed to try to help encourage North Korea not to disrupt the Winter Olympics.
He told US broadcaster NBC news that the exercises could be postponed if Pyongyang halted its nuclear and missile tests before Pyeongchang 2018.
But US Defense Secretary James Mattis claimed there are no plans to cancel the exercises which normally involve 300,000 South Korean troops and 17,000 Americans.
Meanwhile, North Korea’s indication that they are willing to participate at Pyeongchang 2018 has been welcomed by organisers and the International Olympic Committee (IOC).
“We continue our close cooperation with the Organising Committee for the Olympic Winter Games Pyeongchang 2018, with the South Korean Government and the National Olympic Committee of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea,” an IOC spokesperson told insidethegames in response.
“In this context, we will consider the comments of the North Korean leadership with regard to participation in the Olympic Winter Games in an open way.”