Newspaper article International Herald Tribune

North and South Korean Officials Meet ; Discussions to Arrange High-Level Talks a Clear Sign of Easing Tensions

Newspaper article International Herald Tribune

North and South Korean Officials Meet ; Discussions to Arrange High-Level Talks a Clear Sign of Easing Tensions

Article excerpt

The meeting was the most concrete sign that the two Koreas were easing tensions and moving toward a thaw after years of recriminations.

Delegations from North and South Korea met on their heavily armed border on Sunday to try to arrange their first cabinet minister- level talks in six years after months of tensions marked by a North Korean nuclear test, international sanctions and threats of war.

The meeting at the "truce village" of Panmunjom -- so named because the 1953 armistice ending the three-year Korean War was signed there -- was the most concrete sign that the two Koreas were easing tensions and moving toward a thaw after years of recriminations.

Before leaving for the border, Chun Hae-sung, the chief South Korean delegate, reiterated that the North and South could move toward greater economic cooperation and political reconciliation when they "start building trust on small things first." On Friday, North Korea made a surprise overture proposing government-to- government dialogue with the South. South Korea quickly accepted, offering to hold cabinet minister-level talks in Seoul on Wednesday.

Mr. Chun said Sunday that talks on the border with a North Korean delegation, led by Kim Sung-hye, a senior official in the North's Committee for the Peaceful Reunification of Korea, would focus on sorting out "administrative and technical issues" related to the proposed minister-level talks.

In its proposal for dialogue, North Korea said it was ready to discuss reopening a joint industrial park, cross-border tours and Red Cross programs that arrange reunions of families separated by the Korean War. These projects, introduced during a period of inter- Korean rapprochement between 1998 and 2008, have been suspended in recent years as relations deteriorated.

Cross-border tours were canceled in 2008 after North Korean soldiers shot and killed a South Korean tourist and the North then rejected South Korean demands for a joint investigation and measures to prevent similar episodes. …

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