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Two Koreas to begin rare high-level talks

Posted by Nuttapon_S On February - 12 - 2014

Officials from North and South Korea are due to begin the highest level talks for several years.

The meeting – requested by Pyongyang – will take place at the border village of Panmunjom, Seoul says.

No agenda has been set but the issue of family reunions planned for later this month is expected to be discussed.

Pyongyang has threatened to cancel the reunions because of the annual military exercises South Korea and the US are due to stage in February.

‘Open mind’

South Korea’s Deputy National Security Adviser Kim Kyou-Hyun will lead Seoul’s delegation at the Panmunjom talks, a Unification Ministry spokesman in Seoul said.

Ahead of the meeting, Mr Kim said: “This is an opportunity to open a new era of the Korean peninsula.

“I would like to attend the meeting with ‘open attitude and mind’ to study the opportunity.”

The agreement to hold the meeting followed a proposal from North Korea, he said.

One South Korean official said the invitation had arrived without warning, and had taken the government by surprise, the BBC’s Lucy Williamson in Seoul reports.

There is hope in Seoul that it might kick-start a regular dialogue, our correspondent adds.

The two Koreas are due to hold reunions of families divided by the partitioning of the Korean Peninsula at the end of the 1950-53 Korean War for five days from 20 February.

The last such reunions took place in 2010. But these reunions coincide with the start of the US-South Korea joint military drills – annual exercises which anger North Korea.

Many in South Korea see Pyongyang’s reaction as a test of its new approach, our correspondent says.

In a news conference in Geneva on Tuesday, North Korea’s ambassador to the UN, So Se Pyong, spoke of the need to terminate all hostile military actions which he described as the main obstacles to peace.

He called for the US and South Korea to suspend their planned military exercises, describing them as “of a sinister and dangerous nature”.

Last week Pyongyang threatened to cancel the family reunions, warning that “dialogue and exercises of war” could not go hand-in-hand.

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