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Two Koreas in talks on Winter Olympics athletes

© AFP | A soldier salutes as a bus transporting a South Korean delegation for inter-Korea talks passes a military checkpoint close to the truce village of Panmunjom

SEOUL (AFP) - 

Officials from North and South Korea met Wednesday to discuss how many of Pyongyang's athletes will take part in next month's Winter Olympics, the latest in a flurry of cross-border talks.

The North agreed last week to send athletes, high-level officials, art troupes and others to the Games being hosted by the South in Pyeongchang.

Seoul has long sought to proclaim the event a "peace Olympics" in the face of tensions over the North's nuclear and ballistic missile programmes, and the discussions represent a marked improvement in relations.

Three officials from each side from took part in Wednesday's working level talks at the border truce village of Panmunjom to discuss athlete numbers and other sporting logistics.

Seoul has suggested a unified team in women's ice hockey and a joint appearance at the opening and closing ceremonies.

The results of Wednesday's talks will be discussed by both Koreas with the International Olympic Committee -- which must approve extra slots for the North's athletes after they failed to qualify or missed deadlines to register -- in Lausanne, Switzerland, on Saturday.

"We will negotiate based on the spirit of mutual respect and... to help improve cross-border ties and establish peace on the peninsula," Seoul's chief negotiator Chun Hae-Sung told reporters before the meeting.

The two had already reached an agreement over a trip by a 140-member North Korean orchestra to the South to hold concerts in the capital and a Games venue in another meeting on Monday.

The series of talks came after the North's leader Kim Jong-Un abruptly announced his willingness to take part in the February 9-25 event in his New Year speech.

The move was seen as a bid to ease searing tensions on the peninsula and was rapidly welcomed by Seoul.

Last year the nuclear-armed North tested missiles capable of reaching its "enemy" the US and Kim traded threats of war with US President Donald Trump.

© 2018 AFP