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NoKor, SoKor talks begin in Panmunjom

The first round of talks on normalizing relations between South Korea and North Korea began on Tuesday morning in the border township of Panmunjom, the South Korean Foreign Ministry said.

The main issue on discussion, the first one since December 2015, centered around the practical steps towards improving relations between Seoul and Pyongyang and a possible participation of the North Korea team in the 2018 Winter Olympic Games in Pyeongchang.

Each country had sent a five-strong delegation. Standing at the head of the South Korean delegation is Unification Minister Cho Myoung-gyon. Ri Son Gwon, the chairman of the Committee for Reunification of the Fatherland, leads the North Korean delegation.

North Korean leader Kim Jong-un said in his New Year address to the nation the North Korean authorities were prepared to send a team of athletes to the 2018 Winter Olympic Games. South Korean President Moon Jae-in responded to it by instructing his government to begin talks with the North on a possible participation in the Games.

On Sunday, Kim Jong-un made an address to the nation where he ordered to create every condition conducive to an improvement of relations with South Korea.

"The head of state said in clear terms this country should abide by a policy that would produce a breakthrough in the sphere of reunification," the official Korean Central News Agency said. It indicated that raking up the past or over-focusing of the specificity of relations with Seoul was out of place.

Instead, it was important to improve relations between North and South, the Korean Central News Agency said.

The commentary said it was high time for pooling the efforts of the entire Korean people to abate the escalation of tensions on the Korean Peninsula, adding that the case in hand was the normalization of inter-Korean relations and, on top of that, reconciliation and voluntary reunification of the Koreans.