South Korea on Tuesday said it would consider lifting sanctions against North Korea temporarily to allow it to participate in the 2018 Winter Olympics in February, Reuters reported. The countries came to the decision after holding their first high-level talks in over two years to discuss Pyongyang’s participation in the tournament despite bilateral tensions.
The Winter Olympics are due in February in South Korea’s Pyeongchang County.
Seoul will discuss “prior steps” with the United Nations Security Council and other relevant countries to allow North Koreans to visit the South for the Games, Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Roh Kyu-deok was quoted as saying.
During the talks, North Korea said it would send a delegation of high-ranking officials, athletes and a cheering squad for the tournament.
South Korea also proposed holding family reunions during the Winter Olympics for people separated by the Korean War, the BBC reported. It also proposed that athletes from both Koreas march together under the Korean Peninsula flag at the opening ceremony. North Korea’s response to the offer is not known yet.
In his New Year’s address, North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un said he was willing to send a delegation to South Korea for the Winter Olympics. On January 3, South Korea proposed holding the high-level talks after North Korea reopened a communication channel with the South that it had closed down almost two years ago.
Ahead of the talks, South Korea’s Unification Minister Cho Myoung-gyon had said the two countries would discuss ways to improve relations. Both sides sent five-member delegations for the talks.
The discussions began at 10 am at the border truce village of Panmunjom. The two Koreas had last held formal talks in December 2015, and bilateral relations had been tense since then.
Ri Son-gwon, the chairman of the North’s Committee for the Peaceful Reunification of the Fatherland, said the two countries would “engage in talks in a serious and sincere stance”, and that the dialogue would “go well”.
“We came to this meeting today with the thought of giving our brethren, who have high hopes for this dialogue, invaluable results as the first present of the year,” he was quoted as saying.