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South and North Korea agree to hold military dialogue, inter-Korean exchanges

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South and North Korea agree to hold military dialogue, inter-Korean exchanges

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SEOUL, South Korea, Jan. 9 (UPI) — South and North Korea agreed to hold talks to ease military tensions on the peninsula and resolve all problems through pan-Korean dialogue.

The agreement was announced Tuesday, through a joint statement by the two Koreas, after the first inter-Korean high-level meeting to be held in more than two years.

The three-point statement, read aloud by Ri Son-gwon, North Korea’s chief envoy to the talks, declared that the South and North would cooperate to make the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics a success.

North Korean officials suggested sending an Olympic delegation of athletes, high-level officials, performers and reporters to the global sporting event and Seoul assured it would meet the North’s needs.

The two sides agreed to exchange documents to arrange further details of the delegation’s trip to the South.

The South and North also saw eye-to-eye on resolving “all issues” through dialogue and negotiations, based on the principal of “uriminjokggiri,” meaning “among ourselves (the Korean people).”

This term was used throughout the statement, emphasizing pan-Korean partnership by holding military talks and enabling cross-border exchange to bring about reconciliation and unity of the Korean people.

Specific details were not included but analysts say the North may later demand the halt of joint military drills between South Korea and the United States as well as the rotational deployment of U.S. strategic assets to the South.

During the meeting, the North reportedly showed discontent when the Seoul officials raised the issue of the denuclearization.

The South also proposed launching inter-Korean Red Cross talks to arrange reunions between family members separated by the 1950-53 Korean War.

North Korea skirted around the topic, saying that “the road for conversations, contact and visits should be open for anyone including various groups and individuals,” according to Dong-A Ilbo.

Unification Minister Cho Myoung-gyon, Seoul’s top negotiator in the meeting, later expressed regret that the family reunion issue hadn’t been specified.

He said, “The second point of the statement says there will be contact and visits between the South and North in various areas. We see this as including the family reunion issue and we exchanged views on ways to resolve this.”

The five-a-side meeting began at 10 a.m., and broke off into six additional sessions throughout the day.

Observers say the Tuesday dialogue provided the first step towards improving inter-Korea relations but the lack of specific agreements indicate significant differences remain.

Shin Beom-chul, a professor at the Korea National Diplomatic Academy, questioned how the two Koreas could improve ties while separating the issue of North Korea’s nuclear development.

He said this pan-Korean approach needs clarification from the South Korean government.

Kim Yeon-chul, a professor at Inje University said the South Korean government needs to seize the opportunity to bring North Korea back to the negotiating table regarding its nuclear program.

This would be a sizeable challenge, given that the North’s nuclear and missile capabilities have grown compared to the past, he said, calling for steady efforts to resolve the issue.

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