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S. Korea, DPRK to discuss Pyongyang's participation in PyeongChang Olympics during high-level talks
Last Updated: 2018-01-08 14:11 | Xinhua
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South Korea and the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) will discuss issues of mutual concern, including military and humanitarian issues which South Korea raised last year, during the upcoming high-level talks, Seoul's Unification Ministry said Monday.

Unification Ministry spokesman Baek Tae-hyun told a press briefing that the upcoming dialogue will first focus on the DPRK's participation in the PyeongChang Winter Olympic and Paralympic Games.

The 2018 Winter Olympic was scheduled for Feb. 9-25 at South Korea's county of PyeongChang in the eastern Gangwon province. The Winter Paralympic Games will run on March 9-18 at the same venue.

Issues of mutual concern to improve inter-Korean relations would be on the dialogue agenda, such as urgent issues which South Korea proposed in July last year to discuss, the spokesman said.

The Moon Jae-in government of South Korea, which was inaugurated in May last year, offered to hold military talks with the DPRK to stop any hostile act near the military demarcation line (MDL) dividing the two Koreas and humanitarian talks for the reunion of separated families.

People from the two Koreas have been banned from visiting and contacting each other since the 1950-53 Korean War ended in an armistice, not a peace treaty. The Korean Peninsula remains technically in a state of war.

Those issues would be discussed during the senior-level, inter-governmental dialogue, which the two Koreas agreed last week to hold Tuesday at Peace House in the South Korean side of the truce village of Panmunjom.

The dialogue mood between the two sides came as top DPRK leader Kim Jong Un said in his New Year's address that his country was willing to participate in the South Korea-hosted Winter Olympics and talk with Seoul about it.

Just a day after Kim's New Year speech, Seoul offered to Pyongyang holding the high-level talks. The DPRK accepted it without any change of the dialogue venue and time that South Korea had proposed.

Issues, which the DPRK was expected to raise during the upcoming talks, could be the South Korea-U.S. joint annual war games.

South Korean President Moon and U.S. President Donald Trump agreed last week that the two allies would not conduct the springtime war games, codenamed Key Resolve and Foal Eagle, during the Winter Olympic period.

The DPRK could demand the halt of the South Korea-U.S. joint military exercises this year in return for Pyongyang's suspension of provocation to keep the inter-Korean dialogue mood alive.

Other issues, which Pyongyang was forecast to put on the dialogue agenda, could be the resumption of tours to Mount Kumgang and the reopening of the Kaesong Industrial Complex.

The inter-Korean industrial zone in the DPRK's border town of Kaesong was closed down by South Korea in February 2016 in response to Pyongyang's fourth nuclear test in the previous month.

The tourism project to the DPRK's scenic resort of Mount Kumgang, launched in 1998, has been suspended since a South Korean female tourist was shot dead in July 2008 by a DPRK soldier after allegedly venturing into an off-limit area.

South Korea and the DPRK exchanged the lists of its respective five-member delegation over the weekend for the upcoming senior-level talks, which would mark the first inter-Korean dialogue in about two years. The last was held in December 2015 between vice ministerial-level officials of the two Koreas.

The South Korean delegation will be led by Unification Minister Cho Myoung-gyon, while the DPRK side will be led by Ri Son-gwon, chairman of the Committee for the Peaceful Reunification of the Fatherland.

The talks will kick off at 10 a.m. local time (0100 GMT) Tuesday at the Peace House.

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