Two Koreas agree to meeting

Talks to focus on joint industrial park, as tensions grow over nuclear programme.

    The Kaesong industrial park was hailed as a model for Korean co-operation [File: Gallo/Getty]

    Relations between the two countries over the joint development have soured since Lee Myung-Bak, the South Korean president, came to office in February 2008.

    In December, Pyongyang restricted border crossings and expelled hundreds of South Korean managers from the park, which was once hailed as a model for economic co-operation between the neighbours.

    South Korean held

    North Korean authorities at the park have been holding a South Korean worker for three weeks after he reportedly angered Pyongyang by making derogatory comments about its communist political system. 

    Seoul has been denied access to the worker.

    The talks were announced just hours after North Korea repeated a warning that the South should stay out of a US-led security initiative aimed at halting the spread of weapons of mass destruction.

    An unidentified North Korean military spokesman said South Korea's full participation in the Proliferation Security Initiative would be seen "as a declaration of undisguised confrontation and a declaration of a war".

    South Korea, which has been an observer to the initiative, had planned to officially announce its full participation on Sunday, but decided to delay following the North's offer of a meeting, a foreign ministry official told The Associated Press news agency on condition of anonymity.

    The programme, which began in 2003, has been joined by more than 90 countries to help deter trade in weapons of mass destruction and missiles by states including North Korea and Iran.

    Pyongyang says it is aimed at toppling the North Korean government.

    Rocket launch
     
    North Korea quit disarmament talks and announced that it would restart the Yongbyon nuclear plant in response to a United Nations statement criticising a rocket launch earlier this month.

    Pyongyang says the launch put a communications satellite into orbit, but the United States, Japan and other nations believe it was a cover for a long-range ballistic missile test.

    "The military threat escalated by the hostile forces ... challenging even the satellite launch for peaceful purposes, compels the DPRK [North Korea] to further increase its nuclear deterrent," an article carried on the North's KCNA news agency said on Sunday.

    SOURCE: Agencies


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