South Korea offers high-ranking government talks with North Korea on January 9

North Korean soldiers patrol behind a border fence near the North Korean town of Sinuiju, March 31, 2017. REUTERS/Damir Sagolj

SEOUL (Reuters) - South Korean Unification Minister Cho Myong-gyon offered on Tuesday high-ranking government talks with North Korea next week at the border village of Panmunjom, a day after Pyongyang suggested talks despite sticking to its nuclear ambitions.

Cho told a media conference he expects the two Koreas to focus on bringing a North Korean delegation to the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, which begin next month, should the talks be held on Jan. 9.

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un said in a New Year’s speech on Monday he was “open to dialogue” with Seoul and for athletes from the North to possibly take part in the Winter Games. However, he also steadfastly declared North Korea a nuclear power.

Reporting by Christine Kim and Hyonhee Shin; Editing by Paul Tait