North Korea Will Send Delegation Of Athletes To PyeongChang Games
North Korea said Tuesday that it will "send a delegation of high-ranking officials, athletes and cheerleaders to next month's Winter Olympic Games in South Korea," as the two countries held their first official talks in more than two years, according to KYODO. Amid "growing expectations of a thaw in bilateral relations" through the Games in PyeongChang, South Korea "proposed that they march together during the opening and closing ceremonies" and form a joint cheerleading team, a senior South Korean official said. South Korea Vice Minister of Unification Chun Hae Sung also said that Seoul "proposed military talks with Pyongyang and reunions of families" separated by the Korean War around the Lunar New Year holiday in February. However, North Korea "avoided giving a clear response to the proposals on holding family reunions," which last took place in Oct. '15, and the "resumption of military talks," with the "aim of preventing an accidental clash along the border" (KYODO, 1/9).
DIPLOMATIC BREAKTHROUGH: In London, Justin McCurry reported the agreement represents a "diplomatic breakthrough after months of rising tensions" over Pyongyang's nuclear weapons program. The two sides also agreed to "reopen a military hotline that has been dormant" since Feb. '16. Communications are expected to resume on Wednesday. Seoul called for "discussions between the countries' Red Cross" organizations. Ri Son-gwon, chair of North Korea's committee for the peaceful reunification of the fatherland and head of the country's delegation, said, "Let's present the people with a precious new year's gift. There is a saying that a journey taken by two lasts longer than the one traveled alone" (GUARDIAN, 1/9). USA TODAY's Thomas Maresca reported Pyongyang "would likely send figure skating pair Ryom Tae Ok and Kim Ju Sik to the Games." They qualified after capturing a bronze medal at the 2017 Asian Winter Games in Japan. The IOC said that it would also "consider wild card entries for North Korean athletes." IOC President Thomas Bach released a statement Tuesday welcoming the proposals agreed upon between North and South Korea. Bach: "These proposals mark a great step forward in the Olympic spirit." The IOC "will discuss the number and names of athletes from North Korea" (USA TODAY, 1/9).
'STRONG COMPLAINT': BLOOMBERG's Tweed & Kong reported Ri "struck a jovial tone" as he sat down on Tuesday for his country's first formal talks with South Korea in more than two years. He joked about how the "subzero temperatures reflected frosty ties" and asked for the proceedings to be broadcast live -- a request that South Korea turned down. Yet as the day "wore on," and South Korea proposed talks on ending North Korea's nuclear weapons program, "the mood appeared to sour." Ri issued a "strong complaint" that Seoul "dared to even raise the possibility of denuclearization at such an early stage" (BLOOMBERG, 1/9).
U.S. DELEGATION: REUTERS' Susan Heavey reported U.S. President Donald Trump plans to announce the U.S. delegation to the PyeongChang Games "soon," according to a spokesperson for the White House National Security Council. The spokesperson said, "President Trump has committed to sending a high-level United States delegation to the Winter Olympics and looks forward to announcing the delegation soon" (REUTERS, 1/9).