North and South Korea met Tuesday morning for high-level talks, the first such discussions in more than two years.
The talks are expected to focus on North Korea’s participation in the Winter Olympics, scheduled to be held in PyeongChang, South Korea, in February, as well as ways to improve inter-Korean relations. The South Korean delegation is led by South Korean unification minister Cho Myoung-gyon, and the North Korean team is led by Ri Son-gwon, chairman of North Korea’s state agency dedicated to inter-Korean affairs.
North Korea severed all ties to Seoul about two years ago after the South closed the jointly run Kaesong Industrial Complex in the wake of North Korea’s fourth nuclear weapons test. The last high-level talks were in December 2015.
The rogue state has since conducted two more nuclear weapons tests and launched dozens of missiles. The North developed two ballistic missiles in 2017 with the theoretical ability to strike the continental U.S. and tested a staged thermonuclear weapon, specifically a hydrogen bomb built for the destruction of cities.
In his New Year’s address, North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un expressed an interest in engaging the South in dialogue, as well as sending a delegation to participate in the Winter Olympics in South Korea. The South responded positively, offering to meet with North Korean representatives in the Panmunjom truce village at the tense DMZ on Tuesday, and the North agreed to the proposed talks.
The South has been working to re-establish contact for years, with South Korean officials calling into North Korea twice a day every day only to receive no response.
Prior to Tuesday’s talks, Kim ordered a dormant hotline be re-opened, and the North and the South made contact by phone for the first time in two years last Wednesday. The conversations have been noticeably lacking in substance, however, the two sides are at least in communication with one another.
U.S. officials, military officers, and experts have expressed skepticism, yet President Donald Trump has thrown his support behind the talks between the two Koreas, calling discussions a “good thing” attributable to his strength and constant pressure on the rogue North Korean regime.
South Korean President Moon Jae-in sees the Winter Olympics as a “groundbreaking opportunity” to improve ties between North and South Korea.
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