South Korea To Offer Working Level Talks With North Korea On Olympics Next Week

Olivia Cheong, Jan. 12, 2018, 9:28 a.m.

South Korea on Friday proposed working-level talks with North Korea next week to discuss details of the North's participation in the PyeongChang Winter Olympics. Seoul offered to hold the talks next Monday at the border village of Panmunjom, according to Seoul's unification ministry.

The ministry notified the North that Seoul will send a three-member delegation led by Vice Unification Minister Chun Hae-sung, it added.

After high-level inter-Korean talks Tuesday, North Korea agreed to send a high-level delegation, athletes, cheerleaders, an art troupe, taekwondo demonstration teams and others to the Feb. 9-25 Winter Games in the South.

Seoul earlier said that the working-level meeting will likely open before the International Olympic Committee (IOC)'s meeting slated for Jan. 20.

The IOC announced Thursday that it will convene a meeting with officials from the two Koreas next Saturday in Lausanne, Switzerland to discuss details of the North's participation.

The North's participation in the Games came after North Korean leader Kim Jong-un extended a rare offer of rapprochement toward Seoul in his New Year's message.

"Based on the outcome of the inter-Korean meeting, the IOC and the two Koreas are expected to finalize details (of the North's participation)," said a ministry official said Thursday.

The two sides are expected to discuss the North Koreans' travel route, accommodation and other logistics. Seoul said that it agreed to provide necessary support for the North's delegation.

During this week's talks, the South proposed that the two Koreas' athletes jointly march at the opening ceremony. The North did not respond to the offer, but it said it could "positively" consider it, Seoul officials said.

South Korea also proposed assembling a joint women's hockey team with North Korea at the Olympics, according to Vice Sports Minister Roh Tae-kang. The North's reaction is not known.

The government is reviewing how to transport and accommodate the North's delegation in a way that would not violate multi-layered sanctions.

Under U.N. sanctions, the South can't offer cash directly to the North when it supports accommodation expenses.

Sea travel could be in violation of South Korea's unilateral sanctions that ban the entry to South Korea of any vessel that has sailed to North Korea within the past 12 months. It is highly likely that North Koreans would travel to here by land.

Another sticking point is the North's inclusion in its delegation of high-ranking officials blacklisted by U.N. sanctions or Seoul's unilateral punitive actions.

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