North Korea agreed on Friday to hold official talks with South Korea next week, in what will be the first high-level contact between the two countries in more than two years.
South Korea said the North had sent its consent for the talks to be held on Tuesday.The last time the two Koreas engaged in official talks was in December 2015.
According to a report posted by CNN, South Korean Unification Ministry spokesperson, Baik Tae-hyun, told reporters on Friday that North Korea informed her southern neighbour by fax at 10:16 a.m. local time (1:16am, Friday,GMT) that they had accepted the South’s offer to initiate talks.
The person-to-person talks will be held January 9th – one day after North Korean leader Kim Jong Un’s birthday – at the border truce village of Panmunjom located in the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ).
The spokesperson said the two sides agreed to work on the details of the talks “through the exchange of documents,” and added the agenda items of the talks will be “issues related to improving inter-Korean relationships including the Pyeongchang (Winter) Olympic Games.”
Mr. Baik added that he understood that North Korean was scheduled to have discussion with the International Olympic Committee next week.
When asked whether hotlines would be opened on the weekend, he said he expected they would, as time to prepare for the first face-to-face meeting in over two years was running short.
The faxed message accepting the long-standing offer of talks was from Ri Son Kwon, Chairman of the North Korean Committee for the Peaceful Reunification of the Fatherland. It was addressed to his de facto counterpart, South Korea’s Unification Minister, Cho Myoung-gyon, Mr. Baik added.
Baik said that the personnel who will attend the meetings is a matter that still needs to be finalized.
In December 2015, the jointly-run Kaesong industrial zone in North Korea, which opened in 2004 in a rare show of cooperation between the two Koreas, was shuttered in response to Pyongyang’s ramping-up of missile and nuclear testing.
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un opened the way for talks with South Korea in a New Year Day’s speech in which he called for reduced tensions and flagged the North’s possible participation in the Winter Olympics.
And on Wednesday, North Korea reopened a hotline to South Korea which severance has caused non-communication between the Koreas for two years.
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Geng Shuang welcomed North and South Korea “taking positive steps to improve ties”, and said the postponement of the military exercises was “without doubt a good thing”.