North Korea Agrees to Site of Reunion Talks After 4-Day Impasse
North Korea agreed on the site of talks on renewing reunions of families separated by the Korean War, ending a four-day impasse with the South that threatened to slow a thaw in relations between the two countries.
Red Cross officials will meet tomorrow at Panmunjom, which straddles the two countries, the South’s Unification Ministry said today. Differences over where to hold the negotiations held up the start of the talks, originally set to begin this week.
The prospect of renewing family reunions is the latest sign that relations are easing between the two countries after months of heightened tensions fueled by North Korea’s nuclear test and missile launches and the U.S. and South Korean joint military drills. Earlier this month the governments reached agreement on a plan to reopen the jointly operated Gaeseong industrial park, paving the way for the talks on family reunions.
“North Korea is trying to accelerate the improvement of its ties with South Korea so it can get what it can from the South and, eventually, the outside world,” said Hwang Ji Hwan, a political science professor at the University of Seoul. “The question now is how much trust can these two countries build through these meetings?”
North Korea also wants to hold talks in the coming weeks on resuming South Korean tours to its eastern mountain resort, the ministry said in a text message. The visits, a source of hard currency for the North, stopped in 2008 when a North Korean guard shot and killed a South Korean tourist.
Start of Reconciliation
Unification Minister Ryoo Kihl Jae told reporters yesterday that the level of mistrust is still high between the sides and that the deal on reopening the Gaeseong Industrial Complex is only the start of reconciliation.
North Korea pulled its 53,000 workers out of Gaeseong in April as the United Nations stepped up sanctions to contain the country’s nuclear program and the U.S. and South Korea held annual military drills.
A group of more than 250 South Koreans crossed the border into Gaeseong today, including officials from companies operating at the site in their first visit to the factories at the complex in months, the ministry said.
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