Officials are meeting to discuss North Korea's involvement in next month's Winter Olympics, but world leaders are hoping the rare dialogue will progress to peace talks.
Five senior delegates from both sides of the Korea Demilitarised Zone have today met to discuss how North Korean athletes can compete at next month’s Winter Olympics in South Korea, despite the two nations still being technically at war.
BREAKING: South Korean media say the 2 Koreas have begun talks at the border on Olympic cooperation and overall ties
— The Associated Press (@AP) January 9, 2018
It is the first time officials from Seoul and Pyongyang have held talks since December 2015.
And while the dialogue is expected to centre on the sporting showpiece, the Unification Ministry says the critical issue of “inter-Korean relationships” is also on the agenda.
Specifically, Minister Cho Myong-gyon said his delegation will discuss allowing reunions of family members separated by the 1950-1953 Korean War.
“The talks will focus on North Korea’s participation in the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics and our preparations have centered around some requests made by the North for a peaceful Olympic Games,” Ministry spokesman Baek Tae-hyun told a media conference on Monday.
It is understood officials from the South will propose the two nations march under one flag, and even compete as a unified Korea in certain events.
The meeting is taking place at Peace House on the South Korea side of the Panmunjom truce village, and CNN reports that Kim Jong-Un and his counterpart Moon Jae-in will be able to keep an eye on the talks in real time and intervene if they choose to do so.
“While President Moon can monitor CCTVs and discussions in real time, the North Korean side can only listen in it as the live CCTV feed is not provided to the North Korean side,” a spokeswoman said.
US President Donald Trump will also be watching the developments closely. While he maintains it is an important step forward, the State Department has warned that it could be a ploy by Kim Jong-Un to “drive a wedge” between South Korea and the US.
“Look, right now they’re talking Olympics. It’s a start, it’s a big start,” he said. “If something can happen and something comes out of those talks, that would be a great thing for all of humanity, that would be a great thing for the world,” Mr Trump said.
He also said he was more than willing to talk to Kim himself over the phone.
South Korea’s joint military exercises with the US have been postponed until after the Olympics, as diplomatic efforts ramp up.