South Korean negotiators crossed the demilitarized zone for the third time in just over a week as they seek agreement with their North Korean counterparts on restarting a jointly-operated industrial park.
The two sides met at the Gaeseong factory complex located 10 kilometers (6 miles) north of the border today, picking up where they left off in talks on July 10, the South’s Unification Ministry said. More than 150 businessmen from 48 textile companies were scheduled to visit Gaeseong today to survey facilities and retrieve completed goods they left behind when the North shut the zone in April.
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un’s regime has begun toning down its rhetoric since June, after withdrawing its workers from Gaeseong on April 8 to protest tightened United Nations sanctions and U.S.-South Korean military drills. Kim’s isolation intensified after China, his biggest backer, joined the U.S. and South Korea in condemning his nuclear ambitions.
While the Unification Ministry said July 7 the two Koreas share a desire to reopen Gaeseong, they haven’t agreed on the details. South Korea wants the North to take measures to prevent future closures, while the North is calling on the South not to do anything -- like conduct military exercises -- that hinders operations at Gaeseong.
The outcome of the talks will “have a bearing on overall inter-Korean relations” and the South will face “serious misfortune” if it maintains its “arrogant demeanor,” the Secretariat of the Committee for the Peaceful Reunification of Korea told the South on July 11, according to a notice carried by the North’s official Korean Central News Agency on July 13.
South Korean President Park Geun Hye’s government has said it will not engage the North until it gives up its nuclear weapons, aside from talks on joint economic projects and humanitarian issues.
Park was elected last year partly on a pledge to boost ties through “trust-building.” She has said a nuclear-armed North Korea is unacceptable.