Koreas end diplomatic freeze, hold high-level talks

news
04 October 2014

Hwang Pyong SoThe two Koreas have ended a diplomatic deadlock helped in part by the just-concluded Asian Games. The two sided today held their highest-level talks in years following a surprise visit by top North Korean officials to South Korea for the Asian Games event.

The North Korean delegation, led by Hwang Pyong So, a military general considered by many as No 2 in the nation's hierarchy, met with South Korean unification minister Ryoo Kil-jae, National Security Office head Kim Kwan-jin and other senior officials for lunch, reports said.

Details of the conversation were not disclosed. There was also no word about Kim Jong-un, the North Korean leader who has not been seen in public for weeks.

The thaw was aided by South Korean support to North Korean athletes, which has been a ''big help,'' North Korean sports official Choe Ryong Hae said after the Asian Games ended today.

''I take pride that sports seems to be at the forefront of affairs leading to (potential) unification,'' Choe was shown saying on South Korean television. The officials were to attend the closing ceremony for the Asian Games on Saturday evening in Incheon, west of Seoul, before flying home the same day.

South Korean Prime Minister Chung Hong-won who had met with the high-level North Koreans before the closing ceremony of the Asian Games, met with the delegation again on Saturday night before its departure.

South Korea's unification ministry said in a statement that the two sides have agreed to hold further high-level talks between late October and early November. The North Korean group expressed a willingness to continue conversation with South Korea, the ministry said.

While the sudden visit of senior North Korean officials was ostensibly for their attendance at the Asian Games event, the first trip to South Korea in more than five years by top executives from the North appeared to represent a thaw in relations.

North Korea has shunned South Korea's advances in recent months to discuss issues such as reunions of families separated by the Korean War and economic cooperation. Instead, it has railed against military drills in the South, staged more than 100 missile tests and showered caustic rhetoric on the administration of President Park Geun-hye.

Park expressed a willingness to meet the North Korean group but was unable to due to time constraints, according to the ministry.

Talks between the two states - still technically at war - have remained stalled since February.





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