Millennium Post

A sporting analgesic

A sporting analgesic
Until the other day, any prospect of talks between Seoul and Pyongyang was unthinkable. True though, both sides were aware of the forthcoming Winter Olympics that are drawing close. There were speculations on a team, including a delegation, stepping across from the North. Given the hard realities in the Korean Peninsula, the worst of apprehensions were a natural outcome. With the North Korean nuclear ambitions and impending dangers not unknown to anyone, something had to give way. People from both sides were hard put to reach out to one another. And then, from out of the blue, came the first round of talks with representatives from only the two concerned sides present. In the final analysis, sports, albeit the chilly variety that the Winter Olympics guarantee, was the great "healer". The two Koreas exchanged opinions on the North's performance teams coming to the PyeongChang Winter Olympics next month. Among the agreements made on Wednesday, according to Korean news outlet Yonhap, were for North Korea to send a team to the Paralympics, being held in Pyeongchang from March 9 to 18. The talks were held in a building on the southern side of Panmunjom, the border town along the demilitarised zone. Earlier, there were speculations from Yonhap prior to Wednesday's talks that discussions would centre on the North and South athletes marching together during the Opening Ceremony, travel expenses and a joint female ice hockey team. How they fare is not as important as the fact they would amalgamate. When Germany was split between the West and the East sworn foes, this was unimaginable. The two Koreas also shared thoughts on the performance team's travel routes and accommodations. The delegation list was also settled. The South Korean media outlet said that government officials were paying attention to the North's possible inclusion of Choe Ryong Hae in the delegation. Choe is the second-most powerful man in Pyongyang and blacklisted according to Seoul's unilateral punitive actions. The two Koreas will also discuss the results of Wednesday's talks at an International Olympic Committee meeting on Saturday in Lausanne, Switzerland. The South's delegation is led by Vice Unification Minister Chun Hae-sung. The North's chief delegate is Jon Jong-Su, the vice chairman of the Committee for the Peaceful Reunification of the Country. Therefore, a much-awaited reunification seems to be the key. A senior US State Department official told reporters on the sidelines of Tuesday's Vancouver Group summit—a set to talks on the Koreas, including Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and his Canadian counterpart, Minister of Foreign Affairs Chrystia Freeland—that they were "pleased" about the talks between North and South Korea regarding the Olympics, but have seen no change in North Korea's posture with its nuclear and ballistic missile programmes. With both sides having reached out for starters, expecting the North to abandon all its earlier plans and programmes would be asking for too much too soon for the present time. But getting together for the Winter Olympics augurs well for both future negotiations and overall peace.
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