Mon, Jan 08, 2018 - Page 4 News List

N Korea names delegates for official talks tomorrow

CAUTIOUS HOPES:Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said on TV that a meeting for the sake of meeting would be a waste and Japan must upgrade its defense systems


North Korea has named its delegation for a rare high-level meeting with the South tomorrow, the South Korean Ministry of Reunification said yesterday, as Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe cautiously welcomed the talks.

The two Koreas on Friday agreed to hold their first official dialogue in more than two years and are expected to discuss the North’s participation in next month’s Winter Olympics in South Korea.

The North Korean delegation for tomorrow’s meeting in the border truce village of Panmunjom is to be led by Ri Son-gwon, who heads the North’s agency handling inter-Korean affairs, the ministry said.

Pyongyang informed the South that four other officials are to accompany Ri, it added, including those in charge of sports.

The tentative rapprochement comes after North Korean leader Kim Jong-un warned in his New Year speech that he had a nuclear button on his desk, but also said that Pyongyang could send a team to the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics.

Seoul responded with an offer of talks and last week the hotline between the neighbors was restored after being suspended for almost two years.

The message comes a day after South Korea suggested that South Korean Minister of Unification Cho Myoung-gyon would lead its delegation for the upcoming talks.

Kim said in his New Year speech that his country wished success for the Olympics, to be held from Feb. 9 to Feb. 25, while Seoul and Washington have decided to delay their annual joint military drills — which always infuriate the North — until after the Games.

Abe voiced cautious hopes for the talks, but stressed that having a meeting for the sake of a meeting would be a waste.

“The Olympics is a celebration of peace. I want to recognize that change,” Abe said in a recorded interview aired yesterday on national broadcaster Japan Broadcasting Corp (NHK).

His comments came as US President Donald Trump went a step further and said that he was open to holding direct talks with Kim under certain conditions.

Abe, who long has taken hawkish stance against the North, said Japan must upgrade its defense capacity in the face of the North’s missile threats.

He reiterated the importance of “maximizing pressure” on Pyongyang to force Kim’s regime to change its policies and said that North Korea had violated past agreements designed to stop its nuclear programs.

“We cannot afford to be fooled again,” Abe said.

The two Koreas have been separated by the world’s most heavily militarized border since the Korean War ended in a stalemate in 1953. Over the past few months, the North has held multiple missile launches and its sixth and most powerful nuclear test — purportedly of a hydrogen bomb — in violation of UN resolutions.

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