Koreas hold rare meeting to kick-start peace talks

Seoul's Unification Ministry says discussions focus on when and where elusive high-level negotiations will be held.

    North and South Korea are technically still at war because the conflict ended in an armistice, not a peace treaty [Reuters]
    North and South Korea are technically still at war because the conflict ended in an armistice, not a peace treaty [Reuters]

    North and South Korean officials sat down for rare talks on Thursday aimed at paving the way for a high-level, lasting dialogue that has constantly eluded the two North Asian rivals.

    The meeting at the border truce village of Panmunjom started at 1pm local time (04:00 GMT), marking the first official interaction between the sides since August.

    The rivals threatened war against each other last summer over landmine explosions, blamed on Pyongyang, that maimed two South Korean soldiers.

    The standoff eased in late August when the Koreas gathered for marathon talks and agreed on a set of tension-reduction deals that include resuming talks among senior officials.

    Seoul's Unification Ministry said Thursday's meeting was aimed at discussing when and where those high-level talks should be held and with what agenda.

    "We will do our best," said Kim Ki-woong, head of the ministry's special office for inter-Korean dialogue. "We are resolved to maintaining the momentum for dialogue."

    As part of the August agreement, the two sides held reunions last month of families separated during the 1950-53 Korean War. North and South Korea are technically still at war because the conflict ended in an armistice, not a peace treaty.

    Although any dialogue between the two Koreas is generally welcomed as a step in the right direction, precedent offers little hope of a successful outcome.

    A similar effort back in June 2013 saw both sides agree to hold what would have been the first high-level dialogue for six years, but Pyongyang cancelled a day before the scheduled meeting.

    Relations between the neighbours have been all but frozen since the 2010 sinking of a South Korean warship, which killed 46 sailors - an incident Seoul blamed on the North. Pyongyang denied any role.

    Later that year, the North bombed an island in South Korea, killing four people.

    SOURCE: Agencies


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