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S.Korea proposes high-level dialogue with DPRK on Jan. 9

(Xinhua)    15:36, January 02, 2018

South Korea offered Tuesday to the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) holding a high-level dialogue on Jan. 9 in the truce village of Panmunjom after top DPRK leader Kim Jong Un delivered his New Year speech making a peace overture.

"The government proposes (to the DPRK) holding a senior-level inter-governmental dialogue of the South and the North (Koreas) on Jan. 9 at Peace House in Panmunjom," South Korean Unification Minister Cho Myoung-gyon told a televised press conference. The Peace House is a building in Panmunjom controlled by South Korea.

The dialogue overture came a day after top DPRK leader Kim Jong Un said in his New Year speech that Pyongyang was willing to take necessary measures, including the dispatch of the DPRK delegation to the South Korea-hosted winter sports event, and to hold an immediate discussion over it.

Cho anticipated that the two Koreas would frankly discuss issues of mutual concern to improve inter-Korean relations as well as the issue on the DPRK's participation in the PyeongChang Winter Olympic and Paralympic Games slated to start in February in South Korea's eastern county of PyeongChang.

If realized, the reinitiated talks would mark the first inter-Korean dialogue since the Moon Jae-in cabinet was sworn in last May. The last inter-Korean dialogue was held in December 2015 for the meeting of vice ministerial-level officials.

President Moon said at this year's first cabinet meeting earlier in the day that he welcomed Kim's New Year speech, ordering government officials to rapidly restore inter-Korean dialogue and draw up follow-up measures to make it possible for the DPRK to join the upcoming winter Olympics.

The South Korean president had urged Pyongyang several times since his inauguration to participate in the South Korea-hosted winter Olympics to make the winter sports event an epoch-making opportunity to improve relations between the two Koreas and peacefully resolve the Korean Peninsula's nuclear issue.

The unification minister told the press conference that the proposed high-level dialogue would focus on the DPRK's participation in the PyeongChang Winter Olympics, but he noted that other issues of mutual concern would also be on the dialogue table if the two sides sit face-to-face for the talks.

South Korea's presidential Blue House said Monday that it had already expressed its willingness to engage in talks with the DPRK, regardless of the timing, venue and dialogue format, as long as such talks can restore inter-Korean relations and peace on the Korean Peninsula.

Asked about an advance discussion with the United States, Cho told reporters that Seoul was closely cooperating with the U.S. side on the inter-Korean dialogue.

He said communication channels between the two Koreas in Panmunjom should be restored rapidly to hold the inter-Korean, inter-governmental talks. He suggested to discuss the details on the Jan. 9 dialogue, such as setting agenda and forming delegations of each other, through the restored communication channels.

All of inter-Korean communication channels have been severed since the previous South Korean government under impeached President Park Geun-hye decided unilaterally to close down the Kaesong Industrial Complex in response to the DPRK's fourth nuclear test in January 2016.

The inter-Korean industrial zone in the DPRK's border town of Kaesong was the last remaining symbol of economic cooperation between the two Koreas, housing more than 120 South Korean companies and hiring over 50,000 DPRK workers. 

(For the latest China news, Please follow People's Daily on Twitter and Facebook)(Web editor: Liang Jun, Bianji)

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