By AsiaToday reporter Heo Go-woon
North Korea said during the inter-Korean high-level talks with the South on Tuesday it will send a delegation of high-ranking officials and others, including athletes, cheering squad, performing art team, and demonstration team for Taekwondo to the PyeongChang Winter Olympics in South Korea next month. This is the realization of the Moon Jae-in government's plan to make the PyeongChang Olympics a turning point in improving South-North relations and promoting peace.
At the inter-Korean dialogue held at 10 am, Unification Minister and top South Korea delegate Cho Myoung-gyon proposed that the North dispatch a large delegation as well as a cheering squad to the PyeongChang Olympics, and the two sides to march together during the opening and closing ceremonies.
In response, North Korea said it will send a high-ranking delegation, the delegation of the National Olympic Committee, athletes, cheering squad, performing art team, visitors, demonstration team for Taekwondo, and press corps. It would be the first time since the 2014 Incheon Asian Games for the North to send its athletes to the South's major international sporting events.
Considering the fact that the North side mentioned that it will send a "high-ranking" delegation, it's highly likely that a high-ranking official of North Korean ruling political party is likely to visit South Korea. If Choe Ryong-hae, the second-most powerful person in the North and the vice chairman of the Workers' Party's Central Committee, makes his visit to Seoul, he could possibly meet not only South Korean high-ranking officials but also President Moon Jae-in, raising expectations for rapid improvement in bilateral ties.
North Korea might send Kim Yong-chol, the head of the United Front Department, or Kim Young-nam, the President of the Presidium of the Supreme People's Assembly of North Korea.
Minister Cho said that he expects PyeongChang Olympic Games to become a peace festival with the "precious visitors" from North Korea.
Chun Hae-sung, one of South Korea's delegates and the Vice Unification Minister, said in a briefing at the Peace House, "North Korean proposed resolving issues regarding inter-Korean relations through dialogue and negotiations for peace and unity on the peninsula."
The South proposed to hold a Red Cross meeting to discuss possible reunions of separated families in time for February's Lunar New Year holiday. It also proposed inter-Korean military talks to reduce tensions on the Korean Peninsula.
"We also expressed our position that it's necessary to stop the heightened tensions on the Korean Peninsula and to resume dialogue to bring peace to the peninsula, such as (North Korea's) denuclearization," Chun said.
Ri Son-gwon, North Korea's top delegate, said, "We propose to resolve issues regarding inter-Korean relations through dialogue and negotiations for peace and unity on the Korean Peninsula."
The North side did not make any special remarks about the denuclearization, but carefully listened to Seoul's call for resuming talks for peace. The North did not make any specific comments over international sanctions or the Kaesong complex to avoid conflict as much as possible.