S.Korea, DPRK kick off high-level talks in Panmunjom

SEOUL, Jan. 9 (Xinhua) South Korea and the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) on Tuesday kicked off a senior-level, inter-governmental dialogue in the truce village of Panmunjom, Seoul's unification ministry said. 

The two sides started the plenary session at about 10 a.m. local time (0100 GMT) with a five-member South Korean delegation led by Unification Minister Cho Myoung-gyon, and five delegates from the DPRK headed by Ri Son-gwon, chairman of the Committee for the Peaceful Reunification of the Fatherland.The DPRK chief delegate said he hopes for "precious" results from talks with South Korea, reported South Korean news agency Yohap.

Before leaving for the dialogue venue, the South Korean chief delegate told reporters that he will face the meeting "calmly and not hurriedly" to make the 2018 Winter Olympics a peaceful festival and take the first step towards improving the inter-Korean relations.

The South Korean delegation arrived at the Peace House, the dialogue venue in Panmunjom straddles the heavily guarded inter-Korean border, at about 8:46 a.m. local time (2346 GMT Monday).The DPRK delegation arrived at a place near the Peace House at around 9:30 a.m. local time (0030 GMT), crossing the military demarcation line (MDL) on foot to the dialogue venue.

Ri said in his introductory remarks that he hoped to give the first New Year's gift to people on the Korean Peninsula, which would be the "precious outcome" of the talks, by dealing well with this meeting in a sincere manner.

In response, Cho said the PyeongChang Winter Olympic and Paralympic Games were anticipated to be a peaceful festival as the delegation, the "precious visitors," would come from the DPRK.Cho said the inter-Korean dialogue was resumed after a long hiatus, urging its DPRK counterpart to continue talks with a firm will and patience.

The two sides were expected to initially focus on the DPRK's participation in the South Korea-hosted winter sports event, which is scheduled to kick off on Feb. 9 in South Korea's eastern county of PyeongChang.

Signs of a thaw in inter-Korean relations emerged as top DPRK leader Kim Jong Un said in his New Year's address that his country was willing to participate in the 2018 Winter Olympics and discuss it with South Korea.The following day, South Korea proposed to the DPRK holding the high-level, inter-governmental talks. Pyongyang accepted the dialogue overture without any change of the timing and venue South Korea had suggested.

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