North Korea has agreed to send a delegation to next month’s Winter Olympics in South Korea after officials from the two countries met on Tuesday for their first high-level talks in more than two years.
According to South Korean news reports, Pyeongyang will send a delegation consisting of athletes, high-ranking officials, fans, press, a cultural performance troupe, a taekwondo demonstration squad and a cheerleading squad.
The high-level talks were held at the border village of Panmunjom, where the South Korean cabinet minister in charge of relations with the North, Cho Myoung-gyon, and his North Korean counterpart, Ri Son-kwon, deliberated for 11 hours.
During the diplomatic negotiations, North Korea refused to converse about its nuclear and missile programmes, but the two sides agreed to hold military talks in the near future.
A step forward for Olympics
Regarding the diplomatic agreement, Thomas Bach, the president of the International Olympic Committee (IOC), said that a “great step forward” was achieved.
"These proposals mark a great step forward in the Olympic spirit," said Bach.
The IOC still needs to wait for the official reports and proposals from Tuesday’s meeting in order to determine the number and names of the participating athletes.
"We will continue to have these discussions in a positive and constructive way. Following this consultation, the IOC executive board will take the relevant decisions," a spokesperson for the organisation said.
This will be the first time in over eight years that North Korea has participated in the Winter Olympics. The country has competed in almost every Summer Olympics since 1972, with the 1984 Games in Los Angeles and the 1988 Games in Seoul the only two exceptions.
So far, only two North Korean athletes have qualified for the upcoming Winter Olympics: figure skaters Ryom Tae-ok and Kim Ju-sik.
Nuclear weapons only aimed at the United States
After 11 hours of talks, the two Koreas issued a joint statement that, aside from Pyeongyang’s participation in the Winter Olympics, revealed a strong complaint by the North after Seoul’s proposal of denuclearisation.
“All our weapons including atomic bombs, hydrogen bombs and ballistic missiles are only aimed at the United States, not our brethren, nor China and Russia,” the statement said.
“This is not a matter between North and South Korea, and to bring up this issue would cause negative consequences and risks turning all of today’s good achievement into nothing.”
Both sides agreed on the need to ease military tensions and to hold talks to resolve the issue in the near future. The 2018 Winter Olympics in PyeongChang are scheduled to take place from 9 to 25 February 2018.