SEOUL — North Korea during rare talks with the South on Tuesday said it will send a delegation of high-ranking officials, athletes and a cheering squad to the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics in South Korea next month, according to a senior South Korean official.
During talks, Seoul proposed athletes from the two Koreas march together at the opening ceremony, and engage in other joint activities during the Games. Seoul also proposed inter-Korean military talks to reduce tensions on the Korean peninsula and a reunion of family members in time for February’s Lunar New Year holiday, said South Korea’s vice unification minister Chun Hae-sung.
“North Korea said that they are determined to make today’s talks fruitful, and make it a ground-breaking opportunity,” South Korea’s vice unification minister Chun Hae-sung told reporters.
“North Korea said that they are determined to make today’s talks fruitful, and make it a groundbreaking opportunity,” Chun said.
Chun also said the South Koreans proposed resuming negotiations over the North’s nuclear program but there was no specific response from the North Korea.
The talks are being closely watched by world leaders eager for any sign of a reduction in tensions on the Korean peninsula amid rising fears over North Korea’s missile launches and development of nuclear weapons in defiance of United Nations Security Council resolutions.
The meeting was to continue on Tuesday afternoon after the two sides broke up for separate lunches. It began at 10am (0100 GMT) in the three-storey Peace House just across the demilitarized zone on the South Korean side of Panmunjom truce village.
However, North Korean officials said during the meeting they were open to promoting reconciliation between the two countries through dialogue and negotiation, according to Chun.
The head of the North Korean delegation, Ri Son Gwon, said in opening remarks: “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 …””Follow @gorkhapost
China conduct live fire drill along southeast coastline
BEIJING — China’s military has conducted live-fire drills along the southeast coastline, state television reported, but it was unclear if these were the same exercises that had been flagged as taking place in the sensitive Taiwan Strait.
The government had said the drills would happen on Wednesday off the city of Quanzhou, in between two groups of islands close to China’s coast but that Taiwan has controlled since 1949 when defeated Nationalist forces fled to the island at the end of the Chinese civil war.
Chinese state media has said the drills were a direct response to “provocations” by Taiwan leaders related to what China fears are moves to push for the self-ruled island’s formal independence. China claims Taiwan as its sacred territory.
Late on Wednesday, Chinese state television showed footage of helicopters firing missiles during an exercise it said was happening on China’s southeast coast.
State television only showed pictures of helicopters, with no mention of ships or other military equipment such as tanks or amphibious assault vehicles.
The exercises took place from 8 a.m. (0000GMT) until midnight, the report said, giving the same time frame for the previously announced drills in the Taiwan Strait.
The Defence Ministry did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the exercise, and whether it was the same ones previously reported to be happening in the Taiwan Strait.
Taiwan on Wednesday denounced the exercises, saying Beijing was using “cheap verbal intimidation and saber rattling” to threaten the island.
Taiwan is one of China’s most sensitive issues and a potential military flashpoint. China has ramped up military exercises around Taiwan in the past year, including flying bombers around the island.
Taiwan’s Defence Ministry said on Wednesday afternoon two Chinese H-6K bombers had flown around the island, passing first through the Miyako Strait to Taiwan’s northeast and then back to base via the Bashi Channel between Taiwan and the Philippines.
The latest Chinese military movements come during a time of heightened tension between Beijing and the island and follows strong warnings by Chinese President Xi Jinping against Taiwan separatism last month.
China claims Taiwan as its own and considers it a breakaway province.Follow @gorkhapost