North and South Korea name date for talks on restoring ties
SEOUL -- North Korea and South Korea indicated Friday that they would hold working-level talks on Sunday to discuss the reopening of a closed-down industrial park and the restart of tourist exchanges and reunions of separated families.
In a possible breakthrough, Pyongyang on Thursday made a surprise proposal to hold talks on the recently shut joint business park and other issues. South Korea quickly accepted, a move that could result in the first high-level talks since Kim Jong Un took over the leadership of North Korea after the death of his father, Kim Jong Il in late 2011.
In accepting Pyongyang’s proposal, South Korea’s unification ministry suggested the two countries hold ministerial-level talks on Wednesday in Seoul.
Unification minister Ryoo Khil-jae also asked Pyongyang to restore direct communication links that were severed in March.
On Friday, North Korea invited South Korea to hold working-levels talk on Sunday ahead of the ministerial meeting, and suggested the meeting take place in Kaesong, a city just north of the demilitarized zone between the two Koreas where the industrial park is located.
Pyongyang also reopened an official Red Cross hot line at the DMZ on Friday afternoon. The South Korean unification ministry reportedly used the line to make a counter-proposal to hold Sunday’s working-level talk in Freedom House in the Joint Security Area in the Demilitarized Zone, instead of Kaesong.
[Updated 8:50 p.m. on June 7: Early Saturday, the North agreed to the venue change and said it would send three representatives to Sunday’s meeting.]
If the working-level talks materialize, it could lead to the first ministerial-level talks in six years. The last time the two countries’ ministers met was in 2007 in Seoul.
Meanwhile, South Korea announced that President Park Geun-hye will begin a four-day visit to China on June 27. During her visit Park is expected to meet with Chinese President Xi Jinping and discuss pending bilateral issues, including denuclearization of the Korean peninsula.
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