NORTH and South Korea have taken steps towards reducing their bitter animosity during rare talks, as the North agreed to send a delegation to next month’s Winter Olympics in the South and re-open a military hotline.

The meeting, the first of its kind in about two years, was arranged after North Korean leader Kim Jong Un made an abrupt push for improved ties following a year of elevated tensions with the outside world.

Critics say he may be trying to divide Seoul and Washington in a bid to weaken international pressure and sanctions.

The North Korean delegation said it would send an Olympic contingent – including officials, athletes, cheerleaders and journalists – according to South Korean vice unification minister Chun Hae-sung, speaking at the border village of Panmunjom, the venue of the talks.

Chun, one of five South Korean negotiators, said the South proposed that Pyongyang send a big delegation and march with South Korean athletes during the Games’ opening and closing ceremonies next month. He said Seoul also suggested resuming temporary reunions of families separated by war and offered military talks designed to reduce animosities in frontline areas.

South Korea went on to stress the need to denuclearise the Korean peninsula, Chun said. North Korea responded by saying the two sides must try to promote peace and reconciliation through dialogue.