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North Korea will send athletes to the Olympics. Cheerleaders, too.

High-ranking officials and an art troupe will also attend.
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North Korea will send athletes to compete at the Winter Olympics in South Korea next month, accompanied by an art troupe, high-ranking officials, and even cheerleaders, the government in Seoul said Tuesday.

The announcement was made after rare face-to-face talks between senior North and South Korean officials, held at Peace House on the southern side of the border between the two countries.

The aim of the meeting, the first between the Koreas in more than two years, was to reduce tensions, amid mounting speculation the U.S. is planning a “bloody nose” strike on the North in response to its escalating nuclear and long-range missile programs.


South Korea suggested athletes from both countries should march together in the opening ceremony under a Korean Peninsula flag, as they last did at the 2006 games.

Seoul also proposed holding reunions for families separated by the Korean War, as well as inter-military talks to further defuse tensions. North Korea has yet to respond to those offers.

The talks came about after North Korean leader Kim Jong Un unexpectedly used his New Year address to say he was considering sending a team to the games in Pyeongchang, which begin on Feb. 9.

Seoul called for talks to discuss the issue, and Pyongyang agreed to them on the condition that the U.S. and South Korea delayed their annual joint military exercises, which it views as a dry run for an invasion.

Some analysts have speculated that Kim’s overture is an attempt to pull back from the heated rhetoric fueling reports of the White House mulling a strike on the North’s weapons facilities, while others believe it’s a bid to drive a wedge between Washington and Seoul.

North Korea boycotted the last Olympics in South Korea – with which it never signed a peace treaty after the 1950-53 Korean War – and has been a sporadic participant in the Winter Games, taking part in only three of the past six events.

The upcoming Winter Games are scheduled to begin Feb. 9.