Korean Reunions to Proceed ; in 2nd Meeting, North Drops Its Demands That South Delay War Games

By Sang-Hun, Choe | International New York Times, February 15, 2014 | Go to article overview

Korean Reunions to Proceed ; in 2nd Meeting, North Drops Its Demands That South Delay War Games


Sang-Hun, Choe, International New York Times


North Korea had threatened to scrap cross-border family reunions unless South Korea canceled annual military exercises with the United States.

North Korea agreed Friday to honor its earlier agreement to allow hundreds of elderly people separated by the Korean War six decades ago to meet their long-lost relatives later this month, officials in Seoul said.

North Korea had threatened to scrap the reunions unless South Korea canceled annual military exercises it planned with the United States for Feb. 24. During a high-level inter-Korean government meeting on the border on Wednesday, the North insisted that if the South could not cancel the drills, it should at least postpone them for a few days so they would not overlap with the family reunions slated for Feb. 20-25.

But during the second round of border talks on Friday, North Korea retracted its demand and agreed to hold the reunions as scheduled, Kim Kyu-hyun, the chief South Korean delegate, said during a news conference.

The softening of the North's stance came a day after Secretary of State John Kerry of the United States rejected Pyongyang's demand. He urged the North not to use the military exercises as an excuse to interfere with a humanitarian project.

If held, the highly emotional reunions would mark a notable sign that relations were thawing on the peninsula after years of high tensions triggered by the North's nuclear and missile tests, which have resulted in United Nations sanctions.

Mr. Kim said his delegation painstakingly explained President Park Geun-hye's "trust politics" to North Koreans. Since her inauguration in February last year, Ms. Park has said that South Korea would help the impoverished North with trade and aid -- but not until the North takes meaningful actions to show that it can be trusted. …

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