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SEOUL, South Korea (CBSMiami/CNN) — North Korea has agreed to send a delegation to next month’s Winter Olympics in South Korea, the first notable breakthrough to come out of a face-to-face meeting Tuesday between North and South Korea.
Senior officials of the rival Koreas gathered at the border village of Panmunjom on Tuesday for their first formal talks in about two years.
North Korea would send a high-level delegation comprising athletes, a cheering squad, an art troupe, a visitors’ group, a Taekwondo demonstration team and a press corps, a closing joint statement said.
The two countries also agreed to hold talks on reducing military tensions along their tense border.
In addition, South Korean media says North Korea has restored a military hotline with the South, in the second reopening of a suspended inter-Korean communication channel in about a week. All major communication channels had been shut down amid animosities over the North’s nuclear program in recent years.
The South is hoping to resume reunions of families separated by the Korean War decades ago.
The talks are happening in the “peace house” in the joint security area of the Demilitarized Zone, the border where soldiers from both sides “stare each other down” from just feet away.
The Koreas’ first talks in two years were arranged after North Korea’s leader Kim Jong Un recently made an abrupt push for improved ties with South Korea after a year of elevated tensions with the outside world over his expanding nuclear and missile programs.
Critics say Kim may be trying to divide Seoul and Washington in a bid to weaken international pressure and sanctions on the North.
That theory may be bolstered by remarks from a North Korean diplomat taking part in the talks, who claimed Tuesday that the North’s weapons are aimed exclusively at the U.S., not South Korea, Russia or China. The remarks did not mention key U.S. ally Japan.
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