North Korea on Thursday proposed working-level talks with the South next week to discuss its plans to dispatch a group of athletes and cheerleaders to the upcoming Asian Games in Incheon.
Pyongyang suggested the meeting take place at the peace village of Panmunjeom on July 15, its official Korean Central News Agency said. The offer was also made through a border telephone line, the Unification Ministry said.
The proposal came three days after the North said that it will send a cheering squad to the games, to be held from Sept. 19 to Oct. 4. It announced its participation in the competition in May.
Seoul has displayed its willingness to accept the plan and provide related support.
Possible items on the agenda include the North Korean team’s accommodation and transportation, which the South is expected to pay for.
The cheering brigade will likely be a highlight of the games, with its unique costumes and equipment and jazzed-up yet disciplined moves.
Its scale and composition remain unknown. But it could have as many as 300 members, and could be all female, observers say.
The KCNA report said the North is planning on a “big scale” squad.
Pyongyang sent a group of around 300 female students to the 2002 Asian Games in Busan and the 2003 Summer Universiade in Daegu.
Ri Sol-ju, the wife of leader Kim Jong-un, took part in the 2005 Asian Athletics Championships in Incheon as a member of Kumsong Arts School and one of 124 cheerleaders.
The offer of talks is the latest overture by the Kim regime.
The North said its participation in the Asiad was aimed at helping improve cross-border ties and fostering a mood of unity.
It also made a “special offer” last week to cease military drills and slander on both sides of the border. But Seoul dismissed this, calling for a “sincere” resolve to relinquish its nuclear program rather than a token peace offensive.
By Shin Hyon-hee (firstname.lastname@example.org)