After two years of tensions, the first meeting between delegations from North and South Korea. Seoul proposes that North and South athletes march side by side in the opening and closing ceremonies of the Games (February 9-25, 2018).
Panmunjom (AsiaNews) - North Korea has offered to send a high-level delegation to the upcoming Winter Olympics to be held next month in Pyeongchang in the South. In turn, Seoul has proposed that North and South athletes march alongside side in the opening and closing ceremonies of the Games (February 9-25, 2018).
These are the two most significant proposals exchanged this morning between the two delegations from the North and the South who meet for the first time in over two years in the town of Panmunjom, in the demilitarized zone.
Leading delegations are: For Seoul, the Minister for Unification Cho Myoung-gyon; for Pyongyang, Ri Son-gwon, chairman of the Committee for the Peaceful Reunification of the Country.
In addition to the proposal of the joint march of athletes, at this morning’s encounter the South proposed a meeting with the Red Cross to discuss a future reunification of separated families, to be scheduled for the next Lunar New Year in mid-February, during the Winter Games . Seoul also proposed a high-level military meeting to avoid accidental collisions at the border.
Speaking to journalists, Unification Vice-Minister Chun Hae-sung said the South also suggested the need to "stop acts that can increase tension on the Korean Peninsula and resume dialogue to bring peace to the peninsula, for example with denuclearization ".
For its part, for now the North has committed itself to sending a delegation to the Games that includes high-level representatives of the government, athletes, groups of supporters, artists, taekwondo teams and journalists. Chun reported that Pyongyang also proposed "to resolve issues concerning inter-Korean ties through dialogue and negotiations for peace and unity on the peninsula".
Today's meeting took place after Kim Jong-un, at his end of the year speech, expressed the possibility of involving Northern athletes in the Winter Games, accepting the invitation made several months earlier by the president of the South, Moon Jae-in.
Kim accepted after Seoul and Washington decided to postpone joint military exercises in April. For Pyongyang, these exercises are equivalent to a kind of preparation for war.
Among the experts, there are those who praise Moon Jae-in for his delicate position in trying to involve the North in a real dialogue and at the same time restrain his sceptical and quizzing US ally.
Yesterday, in his meeting with the diplomatic corps of the Holy See, Pope Francis said that ""it is of paramount importance to support every effort at dialogue on the Korean peninsula, in order to find new ways of overcoming the current disputes, increasing mutual trust and ensuring a peaceful future for the Korean people and the entire world ".
The bishop of Daejeon, who is the national president of Justice and Peace, expresses his satisfaction for tomorrow's meeting in Panmunjom between the delegations from the North and the South. He praises President Moon’s "patience and perseverance" and Kim Jong-un’s "new, softer language". He hopes that reunions between divided families will resume.
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