North Korea accepts proposal for talks next week on Olympics

SEOUL, South Korea _ North Korea accepted a proposal to hold talks with South Korea on Tuesday aimed at reducing tensions ahead of the Winter Olympics next month.

The agenda would include North Korea’s offer to send a delegation to the Games as well as overall inter-Korean relations, South Korea’s Unification Ministry spokesman, Baik Tae Hyun, told reporters Friday. Preparations for what would be the first formal gathering between the two sides since 2015 would be done via letters, he said.

President Donald Trump endorsed the talks Thursday, calling them a “good thing” while agreeing to delay military exercises until after the event. During a 30-minute phone call, South Korean President Moon Jae-in assured Trump that his government would coordinate with the U.S. on the talks.

Tensions over North Korea’s nuclear program had threatened to hang over the Games in Pyeongchang, a city about 50 miles from the border dividing the Korean Peninsula.

The developments have raised hopes that progress can be made toward broader negotiations with North Korea, although significant barriers remain. Both North Korea and the U.S. have continued to threaten each other, with Kim Jong Un ramping up production of nuclear warheads and Trump vowing to keep up his pressure campaign.

South Korea expects more talks over the weekend with North Korea via a hotline reopened earlier this week, Baik said. The two sides would discuss leadership and composition of each delegation participating in the talks, he said.
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