Koreas agree on family reunions

Initial reunions via video links will lead to face-to-face meetings in May.

    North Korea scrapped the reunions after the South suspended aid last year[GALLO/GETTY]

    North Korea halted the reunions in response to Seoul's suspensions of food aid following a series of missile tests by the North last July.
     
    The aid issue had been a sticking point during the four days of talks, and delayed the final session on Friday by more than five hours.
     
    Divided families
     

    Many Korean families have been
    separated for more than 50 years [EPA/file]

    Millions of Koreans were separated following the division of the Korean peninsula in 1945 and the 1950-53 Korean War.
     
    Today many Koreans with relatives on either side of the border are elderly and are eager to be reunited with their families before they die.
     
    The two Koreas are technically still at war because the Korean War ended in a truce and not with a peace treaty.
     
    The meeting between the two Koreas - the first in seven months - comes on the heels of a landmark six-nation agreement signed in Beijing last month under which North Korea agreed to halt its weapons programme in return for fuel oil.
     
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    South Korea has been one of the North's main aid sources since the two nations held their first and only summit in 2000.
     
    Seoul wants to tie the aid to the North's progress on dismantling its nuclear program and says it will wait until after April 14, the deadline for Pyongyang to switch off its nuclear reactor under last month's nuclear pact.
     
    In a statement issued at the end of the talks in Pyongyang, the North
    reiterated its commitment to the Beijing agreement and both sides "agreed to make joint efforts for a smooth implementation'' of the deal.
     
    Aid talks

    The statement also said delegates from North and South Korea would hold further meetings on economic cooperation - including the resumption of aid in late April, after the deadline for the North to close its reactor.
    The two sides have also agreed to conduct trial runs of trains on restored railway lines across the border.
     
    A planned test last year was called off by the North after military officials said appropriate security arrangements had not been made.

    "The denuclearisation of the Korean peninsula is the dying wish of Kim Il Sung"

    Kim Yong Nam, North Korea's No 2 leader

    On Thursday, Lee Jae-joung, South Korea's Unification Minister and chief negotiator, met with Kim Yong Nam, the North's No 2 leader, who reiterated his country's pledge to abandon its nuclear weapons.
     
    "It is important to make efforts to ensure that South and North Korea cooperate and six countries each assume their responsibilities," Lee told Kim.
     
    Kim reportedly said the denuclearisation of the Korean peninsula had been "the dying wish" of Kim Il Sung, founder of North Korea and father to Kim Jong Il, the current leader.

    SOURCE: Agencies


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