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North, South Korea to hold talks as Winter Olympics helps break ice

From Reuters - January 8, 2018

SEOUL (Reuters) - North and South Korea will hold their first formal talks for more than two years on Tuesday, brought together by sport to discuss how the Norths athletes can attend next months Winter Olympics in the South despite simmering fears of conflict.

Regardless of its narrow, primarily sporting agenda, the meeting will be closely watched by world leaders eager for any sign of a reduction in tensions on the Korean peninsula amid rising fears over North Koreas development of nuclear weapons and defiance of United Nations Security Council resolutions.

The talks will focus on North Koreas participation in the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics and our preparations have centered around some requests made by the North for a peaceful Olympic Games, Unification Ministry spokesman Baek Tae-hyun told a media conference on Monday.

Some South Korean officials are hoping the two Koreas may even march under a single flag at a sports opening ceremony for the first time in more than a decade.

Five senior officials from each side will meet at the three-storey Peace House on the South Korean side of the Panmunjom truce village, with talks to begin at 10 a.m. (0100 GMT).

As previously, cameras and microphones will be placed in the room to ensure that officials from both sides can monitor the talks as they happen.

The United States, which has 28,500 troops stationed in South Korea as a legacy of the 1950-1953 Korean War, initially responded coolly to the idea of inter-Korean meetings.

The State Department had said Pyongyang might be trying to drive a wedge between Washington and Seoul.

U.S. President Donald Trump spent much of the past year deriding negotiations as useless and lobbing insults at North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.

But on Thursday, Trump called the new talks a good thing and said they had been prompted by his firm, strong stance, which has included harsher international sanctions and threats of military intervention if the North does not give up its weapons program.

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