In this photo provided by South Korea Unification Ministry, the head of South Korean delegation Lee Woo-sung, right, shakes hands with the head of North Korean delegation Kwon Hook Bong, left, before their meeting at the North side of Panmunjom in North Korea, Monday, Jan. 15, 2018. Officials from the Koreas met Monday to work out details about North Korea’s plan to send an art troupe to the South during next month’s Winter Olympics, as the rivals tried to follow up on the North’s recent agreement to cooperate in the Games in a conciliatory gesture following months of nuclear tensions. (South Korea Unification Ministry via AP)

North Korean orchestra, maybe joint hockey team at Olympics

Officials from the Koreas met Monday to work out details about North Korea’s plan to send an art troupe to the South during next month’s Winter Olympics

North Korea’s delegation to the Winter Olympics in South Korea will include a 140-member orchestra, the two sides agreed Monday, while discussions continue over fielding a joint women’s hockey team.

The two Koreas met Monday for the second time in a week as they try to hammer out details for the North’s participation in next month’s Games, which the South sees as a way to calm tensions caused by Pyongyang’s nuclear and missile tests.

South Korea’s Unification Ministry said that the orchestra will perform in Seoul, the capital of South Korea, and in the city of Gangneung, where some of the competitions will be held.

Separately, South Korean Sports Ministry spokesman Hwang Seong Un said that the two Koreas have agreed in principle to field a joint women’s ice hockey team. The proposal requires International Olympic Committee approval. If realized, it would be the Koreas’ first unified Olympic team ever.

Officials from both Koreas are to meet with the International Olympic Committee at its headquarters in Switzerland on Saturday. The two sides agreed Monday to meet again at their border on Wednesday for working-level talks ahead of the IOC meeting.

Related: North Korea to join Olympics in South Korea as tensions ease

North Korea last week agreed to send an Olympic delegation and hold military talks aimed at reducing frontline animosities in its first formal talks with South Korea in about two years. The North has said its delegation to the Feb. 9-25 Games in Pyeongchang would include an art troupe along with officials, athletes, cheerleaders, journalists and a taekwondo demonstration team.

The reasons for North Korea’s softer approach are not clear, though some analysts say the North may be trying to divide Seoul and Washington as a way to weaken pressure and sanctions on the country. North Korea carried out nuclear and missile tests last year that triggered harsher U.N. sanctions and worldwide condemnation.

Others speculate the North wants to use the Olympics to show it’s a normal country despite possessing nuclear weapons.

North Korea has insisted its talks with South Korea won’t deal with its nuclear and missile programs, saying those weapons primarily target the United States. Critics question how long the warmer mood can last without any serious discussion on the North’s nuclear disarmament.

The North issued a veiled threat Sunday that it could cancel its plans to send an Olympic delegation to protest what it called South Korea’s “sordid acts” that chilled the prospect for inter-Korean reconciliation.

Related: South Korea offers talks with North on Olympic co-operation

“They should know that (the) train and bus carrying our delegation to the Olympics are still in Pyongyang,” the North’s official Korean Central News Agency said. “The South Korean authorities had better ponder over what unfavourable results may be entailed by their impolite behaviour.”

KCNA criticized remarks by South Korean President Moon Jae-in last week that credited President Donald Trump for getting the North to sit down with the South. It also accused Seoul of letting Washington deploy strategic assets like an aircraft carrier near the Korean Peninsula on the occasion of the Olympics. The United States is beefing up its presence around the peninsula in what it describes as routine training and scheduled upgrades.

The warning is relatively milder than the North’s typical fiery, bellicose rhetoric and it didn’t appear to put the recent signs of warming Korean ties in imminent danger.

A joint statement after Monday’s meeting didn’t mention North Korea’s well-known Moranbong Band, an all-female ensemble hand-picked by the North’s leader Kim Jong Un.

One of the North Korean delegates to the talks was Hyon Song Wol, the head of the band, fueling speculation that North Korea might send the band.

Since its first stage debut in 2012, the band is hugely popular at home and has been dubbed by outsiders as “North Korea’s only girl group” for its Western-style performances featuring women in mini-skirts and high heels dancing and singing odes to Kim.

Hyung-Jin Kim, The Associated Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Just Posted

Alberni Valley’s kettle campaign kicks off

Star Trek fan club challenges other clubs, societies and community groups in Port Alberni

School District 70 cross-country students excel

School District 70 held its annual Elementary District Cross Country Meet

Kingsway Pub in Port Alberni discovers mystery paintings beneath walls

A mystery is afoot at the Kingsway Pub. Owner Helen Poon and… Continue reading

BUSINESS BEAT: New entrepreneurs investing in Port Alberni

Portal Curios and Oddities opening in Harbour Quay

Saanich man, passenger escape injury in Mt Arrowsmith rollover

A visitor from the South Island escaped injury after rolling his SUV… Continue reading

VIDEO: B.C. legislature clerk, sergeant at arms suspended for criminal investigation

Clerk of the House Craig James, Sergeant-at-arms Gary Lenz on administrative leave

Postal strike affects charities at critical fundraising time

Canadian fundraising professionals and charities join call for fast resolution

$90,000 pen from space created by B.C man

The Space pen is made from a meteorite

B.C. woman fined $2,300 for clocking 215 km/hr in Alberta

It’s the highest fine Alberta police have issued

Watchdog calls for probe into police board spending on former Victoria police chief

Police Complaint Commissioner says accountable and transparent review is in public interest

South Korean named Interpol president in blow to Russia

South Korea’s Kim Jong Yang was elected as Interpol’s president edging out a longtime veteran of Russia’s security services.

E. coli outbreak linked to romaine lettuce sickens 18 people in Ontario, Quebec

The Canadian Food Inspection Agency says it’s working with U.S. authorities to determine the source of the romaine lettuce those who got ill were exposed to.

Trump defies calls to punish crown prince for writer’s death

The U.S. earlier sanctioned 17 Saudi officials suspected of being responsible for or complicit in the Oct. 2 killing, but members of Congress have called for harsher actions, including cancelling arms sales.

British, EU leaders to meet as Brexit deadline looms

The U.K. and the European Union agreed last week on a 585-page document sealing the terms of Britain’s departure.

Most Read