N. Korea state media urges better ties with South ahead of meeting

IANS|07-Jan-2018 18:30

Seoul, Jan 7 :North Korea's official news agency has urged practical action in order to improve ties between the two Koreas in an editorial on Sunday, ahead of the first meeting between the two countries in more than two years.

The article was published to mark the high-level meeting to be held on January 9 between representatives of North and South Korea, who have technically been at war for more than 65 years, Efe news agency reported.

The respective delegations are expected to discuss North Korean participation in the Winter Olympics -- to be held in February in the South Korean county of PyeongChang -- and other ways to improve bilateral ties.

"The entire process of past North-South relations shows that efforts to improve bilateral ties can come to fruition only when the two sides work together based upon cooperation among Korean people," said the article published by the Korean Central News Agency (KCNA).

"The will to enhance North-South relations must be backed up not by words, but by practical actions to foster inter-Korean reconciliation and unity, and reunification," it said.

The article added that any move to block inter-Korean contact through "pretexts" and legal and institutional tools is only a "deceptive" gambit to misguide public opinion on both sides of the border.

This is an apparent reference to increased criticism by the conservative South Korean opposition, which argues that financing the North's athletes in PyeongChang could violate international sanctions imposed on the Kim Jong-un regime for its weapons programme.

The two sides are expected to discuss who will pay for the stay and other costs of the North's participation at the Olympics; the International Olympics Committee has shown a willingness to pay the expenses.

The meeting will also decide on the atheltes' mode of transport to travel to the South - a land crossing would require a military agreement - and could discuss the possibility of the contingents of both the countries participating in the opening and closing ceremonies under a united flag.

The decision to hold the bilateral meeting came after the North Korean leader, Kim Jong-un, expressed in his New Year's message a desire for rapprochement with the South and to send a North Korean delegation to participate at the PyeongChang games, which led Seoul and Washington to postpone their annual joint military drill - seen by the North as a rehearsal for invasion - until after the Games.

North Korea's participation in PyeongChang and a rapprochement between the two Koreas could contribute to easing the peninsular tensions that were raised throughout 2017 by Pyongyang's regular ballistic weapons tests and US President Donald Trump's belligerent rhetoric.