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Archive for Sunday, July 23, 2000

New talks on agenda for Koreas

July 23, 2000

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— North Korea agreed on Saturday to high-level government talks in the South Korean capital this month, a meeting that would mark the first visit to Seoul by a senior North Korean official in eight years.

North Korean Prime Minister Hong Sung Nam said in a letter to his South Korean counterpart, Lee Han-dong, that his country will send a 35-member delegation led by a Cabinet-level minister to Seoul for July 29-31 talks.

The meetings will focus on how to implement the agreements of last month's historic summit, at which leaders of the two Koreas pledged to reconcile after five decades of animosity. Seoul officials expected the talks would lead to a series of lower-level talks on military, economic and sports exchanges.

Since the June 13-15 summit, a thaw has been spreading rapidly on the Korean Peninsula. Both sides have ended propaganda broadcasts against the other. Foreign ministers of the two countries will meet in Bangkok, Thailand, this week during the Association of Southeast Asian Nations Regional Forum.

The two Koreas also will allow hundreds of separated family members to reunite temporarily in mid-August.

The North Korean entourage to Seoul this month will include five government negotiators led by a Cabinet level minister, 10 journalists and 15 supporting personnel.

No North Korean government officials have visited Seoul since 1992, when the prime ministers of the two nations visited each other's capital for a series of reconciliation talks. During those talks, both sides pledged to renounce hostilities. But relations chilled again amid suspicions over North Korea's nuclear program.

Last month's summit was the most significant diplomatic breakthrough in relations between the Koreas, which were partitioned into the communist North and the pro-Western South in 1945.

The Koreas have never signed a peace treaty to end their 1950-53 war, and their border is the world's most heavily armed.

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