Inter-Korean talks hailed as positive sign to ease tensions on peninsula

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Ri Son-gwon (L), chairman of the Committee for the Peaceful Reunification of the Fatherland of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK), shakes hands with South Korean Unification Minister Cho Myoung-gyon at Peace House, a South Korean building in the truce village of Panmunjom, Jan. 9, 2018. The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) and South Korea have agreed at the just-ended inter-Korean dialogue to hold separate military talks, with the DPRK also consenting to send a delegation to the 2018 Winter Olympics to be hosted by Seoul next month, Seoul’s Unification Ministry said Tuesday. (Xinhua/Newsis)

BEIJING, Jan. 10 (Xinhua) — The international community have hailed the high-level talks held by the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) and South Korea, the first in more than two years, and agreements reached during the meeting.

The two Koreas on Tuesday held the inter-governmental dialogue at the truce village of Panmunjom in the highly militarized zone dividing the peninsula.

After the over-10-hour talks, the two sides hammered out a three-point joint statement, agreeing to work to ease military tensions, hold military-to-military talks, and reopen the inter-Korean military hotline.

“The re-establishment and strengthening of such channels is critical to lowering the risk of miscalculation or misunderstanding and to reduce tensions in the region,” said Stephane Dujarric, spokesman for UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, in a statement.

The DPRK agreed to send a delegation to the 2018 Winter Olympics to kick off in February in South Korea’s eastern county of Pyeongchang, and the 2018 Paralympics in March.

Guterres also welcomes the decision of the DPRK to send a delegation to the upcoming Olympic Games, Dujarric said.

“As the United Nations General Assembly has recognized, the holding of the Olympic Games can foster an atmosphere of peace, tolerance and understanding among nations. This is particularly relevant on the Korean Peninsula and beyond,” he added.

“North Korean (DPRK) participation is an opportunity for the regime to see the value of ending its international isolation by denuclearizing,” White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders told reporters on Tuesday.

Under the three-point agreement, South Korea and the DPRK will honor the declarations they made in the past and resolve all issues on inter-Korean relations through talks and negotiations.

EU High Foreign Policy Chief Federica Mogherini said in a statement that the bloc welcomed the joint announcements adopted after the talks, hailing that they “can be conducive to fostering trust and de-escalating tensions on the Korean Peninsula.”

The EU also expected that the talks would “prepare the ground for the DPRK to engage in a broader, credible and meaningful dialogue, aimed at pursuing the complete, verifiable and irreversible denuclearization of the peninsula,” said Mogherini.

“Clearly this is a positive development,” said U.S. State Department Spokesperson Steve Goldstein at a briefing Tuesday afternoon.

“We would like nuclear talks to occur,” said Goldstein, adding that this is “a good first step in that process.”

Over the weekend, U.S. President Donald Trump expressed his willingness to talk with Kim Jong Un, top leader of the DPRK, and supported the upcoming dialogues.

“I always believe in talking,” Trump told reporters at Camp David on Saturday when asked whether he was willing to engage in phone talks with Kim right now.

However, both Trump and other U.S. officials stopped short of considering a direct talk between the United States and the DPRK without any preconditions.

Trump said any talk will come with prerequisites.

“Talks are vital… but it has to occur with the conditions that we outlined,” said Goldstein.

Experts urged Washington to further commit itself to the peace-making process and final denuclearization of the peninsula.

U.S. scholar on the DPRK affairs John Delury argued that actual negotiations on denuclearization, arms control and peace mechanisms will require direct U.S. participation.

“The sooner the Trump administration follows (South Korean President) Moon’s lead in opening a direct channel to Pyongyang, the better,” said Delury in an editorial published on the website of Foreign Affairs earlier this week.

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