List of Delegates for Inter-Korean Talks Confirmed, Raising Hopes for North-U.S. Dialogue

North Korea has finalized its five-member delegation led by Ri Son-gwon, chairman of the Committee for the Peaceful Reunifica
North Korea has finalized its five-member delegation led by Ri Son-gwon, chairman of the Committee for the Peaceful Reunification of the Country, for Tuesday's inter-Korean talks and notified South Korea of the list on Sunday. As a result, a list of delegates for the high-level inter-Korean talks has been confirmed. South Korea's chief delegate will be Unification Minister Cho Myoung-gyon./ Source: Yonhap News

By AsiaToday reporter Choi Tae-beom

A list of delegates for Tuesday's high-level inter-Korean talks has been confirmed Sunday. The first official dialogue of the Moon Jae-in government that reflects North Korean leader Kim Jong-un's will is raising hopes for a thaw in the bilateral relations.

North Korea has sent Sunday a list of five delegates. Headed by Ri, chairman of the Committee for the Peaceful Reunification of Korea (CPRC), the delegates will include Jon Jong-su, Vice Chairman of the CPRC; Won Kil-u, Vice Minister of Physical Culture and Sports; Hwang Chung-song, Director of the CPRC; and Ri Kyong-sik a member of the DPRK Olympic Committee.

It seems that the North has drawn a list of officials holding similar positions as Seoul's representatives, which include one minister and two deputy ministers. The South Korean delegation will be led by Unification Minister Cho Myoung-gyon. Four other delegates include Vice Unification Minister Chung Hae-sung, Second Vice Minister of Culture, Sports and Tourism Roh Tae-kang, Ahn Moon-hyun, deputy director-general at the Prime Minister's Office, and Kim Ki-hong, a vice president of Games planning for PyeongChang Organization Committee.

It's the first time the unification minister and vice ministers have joined the delegation, which reflects the government's strong will to restore the bilateral relations. The government included officials of the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism as well as the Prime Minister's Office to continue negotiations on inter-Korean talks in every level with the occasion of this meeting.

"It seems that the South and the North named their delegates considering balance of power," an official at the Unification Ministry said. "We will discuss the North's participation in the PyeongChang Olympics and the improvement of the inter-Korean relations as much as possible."

In particular, the fact that everything has been prepared in a week after Kim Jong-un's offer in his New Year's speech raises hopes for a thaw in Seoul-Pyongyang relations.

In addition to forming a delegation, North Korea has shown its active attitude towards the meeting more than ever by completely accepting the South's offer to hold high-level talks Tuesday at the Peace House in the village of Panmunjom in the Demilitarized Zone.

If discussions on Pyongyang's participation in the PyeongChang Olympic Games proceed smoothly at the high-level inter-Korean talks, which will be held for the first time in more than two years, it could lead to broader discussions related to the restoration of inter-Korean relations.

The potential improvement of inter-Korean relations could further lead to the North-U.S. dialogue as Washington changed its cautious stance towards supporting the South-North dialogue initiative. In fact, Washington has agreed to South Korea's offer in postponing the annual joint military drill, which was initially scheduled to overlap with the Olympics. Besides, U.S. President Donald Trump said Saturday that he would "absolutely" be open to talks over the phone with Kim Jong-un, and highly regarded the South-North meeting as "a big start."

Trump added that the U.S. would be involved at the "appropriate time", signing a possible dialogue for denuclearization with the North.

+ This article was originally published on AsiaToday. (See original version)

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