PYONGYANG, Jan. 8 — The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) is quietly preparing for a globally watched meeting with South Korea scheduled for next Tuesday at the truce village of Panmunjom, which could mark a breakthrough of inter-Korean relations.
While Pyongyang has been silent on its decision to send a five-member delegation to the meeting, it is widely expected that the meeting will be held as scheduled if no incident takes place at the last moment. South Korea said the DPRK on Sunday sent the list of its five-member delegation to Seoul through the restored hotline in Panmunjom for the high-level inter-Korean talks. The DPRK delegation will be led by Ri Son-gwon, chairman of the Committee for the Peaceful Reunification of the Fatherland, according to South Korea’s unification ministry. South Korea had earlier sent the list of its five-member delegation to the DPRK to be led by South Korea’s Unification Minister Cho Myoung-gyon.
The meeting will be held at the South Korean side’s Peace House, according to Seoul. The high-level meeting was agreed upon by the two sides after top DPRK leader Kim Jong Un said in his New Year’s speech that Pyongyang would send athletes to join the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea. Kim also ordered the reopening of a hotline with South Korea last week. The DPRK accepted South Korea’s proposal to hold the ministerial-level meeting on Friday, according to Seoul. But Pyongyang did not officially announce the decision. The hotline of direct dialogue between the two Koreas was reopened Wednesday after it was closed two years ago following the unilateral suspension of the Kaesong Industrial Complex in the DPRK by South Korea in February 2016, one month after DPRK tested a nuclear bomb.
The prospect of improving relations between the two Koreas has been welcomed by China but met with suspicion from the United States. U.S. President Donald Trump said on Saturday he is open to future dialogue with the DPRK, with preconditions. The DPRK has not yet responded to Trump’s remarks and its official media continued to attack the United States over its military threats toward the DPRK over the weekend. Relations between Pyongyang and Seoul remained tense throughout 2017 due to missile and nuclear tests conducted by the DPRK and constant joint military drills held by the United States and South Korea. Coming on the heels of the re-opening of the communication channel between the two Koreas, Washington and Seoul on Thursday agreed not to conduct any joint military drill during the upcoming Pyeongchang Winter Olympics until March 2018. – XINHUA