NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — For the first time in more than two years, representatives from North Korea walked across the border into South Korea Tuesday and sat down for talks.
Five men from the South and five from the North shook hands as dire warnings of war were replaced with diplomatic warmth. The North Koreans said they are serious and sincere, offering what they called “invaluable results.”
They could afford the optimism because the conversation was not about Kim Jong Un’s nuclear program and instead focused mainly on North Korea’s attendance at next month’s Winter Olympics, CBS News correspondent Ben Tracy reported.
The North quickly offered to send a high level delegation including athletes, a cheering squad and performing arts groups. The South asked that the two countries march together at the opening and closing ceremonies and resume reunions of families separated during the Korean War.
North Korea coming to the winter games is a big win for South Korean President Moon Jae-in, who has called them the “peace Olympics.”
Following Tuesday’s talks, the South’s unification ministry issued a statement saying the delegates had agreed, “our people’s issues should be solved by ourselves,” CBS News reported.
John Delury is an expert on North Korean affairs and says Kim Jong Un may feel confident enough in his weapons program to now engage in diplomacy.
“In and of itself, the Olympics is not going to solve anything,” he said. “But I am seeing a lot of political will in Pyongyang and here in Seoul that the two sides want to make this a very different year, that they’re serious about dialogue and that they’re really talking about more than the Winter Olympics, but they have to take this step by step.”
South Korea says it may temporarily lift some travel sanctions on the north so its representatives can attend the games.