- Associated Press - Monday, January 8, 2018

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) - The Latest on the border talks between North and South Korea (all times local):

9:30 p.m.

The two Koreas have agreed in a joint statement to hold talks on reducing military tensions and “actively cooperate” in next month’s Winter Olympics in South Korea.

Senior officials of the rival Koreas gathered at the border village of Panmunjom on Tuesday for their first formal talks in about two years.

South Korean media say they issued a statement after the meeting in which they agreed to hold military talks aimed at reducing animosity along their tense border.

The statement says North Korea also agreed to send a delegation to the Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea, and work for the success of the games.

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6:15 p.m.

South Korean media say North Korea has restored a military hotline with the South, in the second reopening of a suspended inter-Korean communication channel in about a week.

All major inter-Korean communication channels had been shut down amid animosities over the North’s nuclear program in recent years. But North Korea reopened one of the channels last week as signs emerged of improving ties.

The two Koreas were holding rare talks at the border village of Panmunjom on Tuesday to discuss how to cooperate in next month’s Olympics in South Korea and improve their long-strained ties.

South Korea’s Yonhap news agency cited an unidentified Seoul official as saying the North Korean delegation to the talks told South Korean negotiators that it had restored another communication channel.

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5:35 p.m.

China says it welcomes moves by North and South Korea to improve relations after the sides held rare high-profile talks and called on the international community to lend its backing to such efforts.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Lu Kang told reporters that Beijing was “pleased to see this high-level talk between the two sides.”

Lu said that “China welcomes and supports the positive moves taken by the two sides to improve relations, and we hope the talk will make a good start for the two sides to further improve ties, promote reconciliation and cooperation and alleviate tensions on the peninsula.”

China is North Korea’s only major ally and has come under heavy pressure to use its leverage to steer Pyongyang back to negotiations on ending its nuclear programs.

While Beijing argues its influence is limited, it has signed on to increasingly harsh United Nations sanctions against Kim Jong Un’s regime, including bans on key exports of textiles, seafood and other products and sharp limits on supplies of oil and petroleum products.

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1:40 p.m.

South Korea says North Korea has agreed to send a delegation to next month’s Winter Olympics in the South.

South Korea’s Vice Unification Minister Chun Hae-sung says the North made such a statement during rare talks between the rivals at the border on Tuesday.

He cited the North Korean officials there as saying its delegation would include officials, athletes, cheerleaders and journalists.

Chun says South Korea proposed the two Koreas conduct a joint march during the Game’s opening and closing ceremonies.

He says South Korea also proposed resuming temporary reunions of families separated by war and offering talks designed to reduce animosities in front-line areas.

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1:20 p.m.

North Korea has slammed President Donald Trump’s claim that it was his strong position toward Pyongyang that set the stage for the first high-level North-South talks in more than two years.

The North’s ruling party newspaper criticized Trump’s claims that enforcement of sanctions and increased pressure on the North were a “diplomatic success” of his first year in office, calling that a “ridiculous sophism” in a commentary published as the two sides started their talks on Tuesday.

“It is very deplorable to see the U.S. politicians boasting of their diplomatic failure as ‘diplomatic success,’” it said.

Senior officials from the North and South are meeting in the border village of Panmunjom to discuss a proposal by North Korean leader Kim Jong Un to send a delegation to next month’s Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea, and other bilateral issues.

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11:15 a.m.

A State Department adviser says the U.S. views Tuesday’s talks between North and South Korea as a good start but it’s too early to know if they’ll be meaningful beyond the Olympics preparations.

Brian Hook, a chief adviser to Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, told reporters in a conference call that sanctions on Pyongyang would continue until the U.S. reached its goal of “the complete verifiable, irreversible denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.”

Hook said President Donald Trump credits the pressure campaign with convincing the North to agree to renewed dialogue with the South.

Senior officials from the two Koreas held the rivals’ first formal talks in about two years in the border village of Panmunjom. The talks were arranged after North Korea’s leader Kim Jong Un recently made an abrupt push for improved ties with South Korea.

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10:15 a.m.

South Korean media say North and South Korea have begun talks at their border about how to cooperate in next month’s Winter Olympics and how to improve their long-strained ties.

Yonhap news agency reported that the first talks between the rivals in about two years began as scheduled Tuesday morning at the border village of Panmunjom. YTN television network carried a similar report.

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has been making an apparent push for improved ties with the South after a year of elevated tension over his country’s nuclear and missile tests. Critics, though, say Kim may be trying to divide Seoul and Washington to weaken international pressure and sanctions over the tests.

Kim Jong Un had said in his New Year’s Day address that he was willing to send a delegation to the Olympics being held next month in Pyeongyang, South Korea. South Korean President Moon Jae-in welcomed Kim’s overture and proposed the talks.

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7:50 a.m.

Senior South Korean officials are heading to the Demilitarized Zone for rare talks with their North Korean counterparts.

The officials departed Seoul early Tuesday morning for the border.

The agenda includes cooperation at next month’s Winter Olympics in South Korea and improving long-strained ties.

The rival Koreas’ first formal meeting in about two years comes after months of tension over North Korea’s expanding nuclear and missile programs.

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un said in his New Year’s Day address that he was willing to send a delegation to the Olympics. South Korean President Moon Jae-in welcomed Kim’s overture and proposed holding talks.

Critics say Kim may be trying to divide Seoul and Washington in a bid to weaken international pressure and sanctions over North Korea’s nuclear and missile tests.

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