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Archive for Sunday, July 30, 2000

Koreas unite for high-level talks

July 30, 2000

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— North and South Korea opened high-level talks in Seoul on Sunday, hoping to work out measures to implement the agreement forged in the historic meeting of their leaders last month.

"The summit was a historic event that opened an era of reconciliation, unity and unification. So we must produce a big artistic item out of this talks," Jun Kum Jin, the chief North Korean delegate, said before starting the talks at a Seoul hotel.

His South Korean counterpart, Unification Minister Park Jae-kyu, pledged full efforts to make progress, saying that the two sides now "must move into the stage to faithfully implement the summit agreements."

They two delegations shook hands then entered their closed-door talks. Another session was scheduled for the afternoon, and more talks could be held on Monday. To avoid political friction, no flags or other national emblems were used for the talks.

Hopes for progress in the talks -- the first such meeting since 1992 -- have been fueled by the June summit between South Korean President Kim Dae-jung and North Korean leader Kim Jong Il, during which both leaders agreed to work together for reconciliation and unification.

The North Koreans were scheduled to meet Kim Dae-jung before leaving Seoul on Monday afternoon. The delegation arrived from Beijing, since there are no direct flights between the two Koreas.

The Koreas have been bitter Cold War enemies since the division of their peninsula into the communist North and the capitalist South in 1945. Their three-year war in the early 1950s ended in an armistice, not in a peace treaty.

The 1992 talks came when the prime ministers of the two countries for reconciliation talks, but those negotiations were overshadowed by political tension.

The agreements from the June summit call for wide-ranging economic and other exchanges. The Koreas already have stopped propaganda broadcasts directed at each other and are preparing to arrange cross-border travels by 100 people each in mid-August for temporary family reunions, the first since 1985.

Despite the conciliatory mood, the South's Kim Dae-jung has said reunification could take two or three decades and has warned his military to stay on alert in close cooperation with the 37,000 U.S. troops stationed here.

The North Korean delegation does not include officials handling economic and military affairs, although South Korea hoped to discuss opening a military hotline and connecting rail lines across the border.

A senior South Korean official, briefing local reporters on condition of anonymity, said his government will put a priority on efforts to regularize such high-level talks with North Korea.

South Korea, the official said, will also seek to form several subcommittees with North Korea to handle military, economic, cultural and sports exchanges.

Topics will also include a proposed visit to Seoul by Kim Jong Il, he said.

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