North Korea has sent a list of its delegation for a rare high-level meeting with the South this week, the unification ministry in Seoul said today. The two Koreas agreed Friday to hold their first official dialogue in more than two years and are expected to discuss the North’s participation in next month’s Winter Olympics in South Korea. The North Korean delegation for Tuesday’s meeting in the truce village of Panmunjom will be led by Ri Son-Gwon, the head of the North’s agency handling inter-Korean affairs, the ministry said. Pyongyang informed the South that four other officials will accompany Ri, it added, including those in charge of sports. The tentative rapprochement comes after the North’s leader Kim Jong-Un warned in his New Year speech that he had a nuclear button on his desk, but also said Pyongyang could send a team to the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics. Seoul responded with an offer of talks and last week the hotline between the neighbours was restored after being suspended for almost two years.
The message comes a day after South Korea suggested Unification Minister Cho Myoung-Gyon would lead its delegation for the upcoming talks. The unification ministry said details for Tuesday’s meeting will be discussed through the inter-Korean hotline although the issue of North Korea’s participation in the Winter Games will likely dominate the discussions. Kim said in his New Year speech that his country wished success for the Olympics, to be held from February 9-25, while Seoul and Washington have decided to delay their annual joint military drills — which always infuriate the North — until after the Games.
The two Koreas have been separated by the world’s most heavily militarised border since the Korean War ended in a stalemate in 1953. In recent months, the North has held multiple missile launches and its sixth and most powerful nuclear test –purportedly of a hydrogen bomb — in violation of UN resolutions.