North and South Korea achieve breakthroughs at border talks
The head of the North Korean delegation, Ri Son Gwon, center, is greeted by South Korean officials after he steps across the border line to attend the meeting at Panmunjom in the Demilitarized Zone in Paju, South Korea, Tuesday. | Korea Pool via AP

North and South Korea made progress yesterday in talks at the former village of Panmunjom in the demilitarized border zone.

The delegations agreed to military talks to reduce tensions along the heavily fortified frontier.

They also agreed to reopen a north-south military hotline, as well as North Korean involvement in next month’s winter Olympics in South Korea’s Pyeongchang, the ostensible reason for the talks.

At the start of the first bilateral meeting for two years, North Korean Unification Minister Ri Son Gwon expressed hope for “precious” improvements in relations.

South Korean Vice Unification Minister Chun Hae Sung said later he had also proposed resuming temporary reunions of families separated since the 1950-53 war, and stressed the need to rid the Korean peninsula of nuclear weapons.

The talks followed last week’s reconnection of a diplomatic hotline after South Korean Unification Minister Cho Myoung Gyon accepted North Korean leader Kim Jong Un’s offer of dialogue in his New Year’s Day speech.

The military hotline was closed in 2013 after the UN imposed sanctions on the North amid rising military tensions with the U.S. It was also used to facilitate South Korean workers crossing to the joint industrial complex at Kaesong.

Impeached South Korean president Park Geun Hye shut down operations at Kaesong in February 2016 in retaliation for a North Korean satellite launch.

Panmunjom, inside the demilitarized zone, was where the Korean war armistice was signed.

China, which has proposed a return to six-nation talks on North Korea’s nuclear weapons, welcomed the North-South meeting.

But Secretary of State Rex Tillerson’s adviser Brian Hook insisted that sanctions would continue until Washington reached its goal of “the complete verifiable, irreversible denuclearization of the Korean peninsula.”

North Korean newspaper Rodong Sinmun rejected President Donald Trump’s claim that intensified sanctions and military saber-rattling had forced Pyongyang to the table.

Last week Trump agreed to delay the latest joint war games with South Korea—a biannual source of confrontation with the North—until after the Olympics and repeated his surprise offer last year to meet with Kim Jong Un.


CONTRIBUTOR

Morning Star
Morning Star

The Morning Star is the socialist daily newspaper published in Great Britain.

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