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ROK, DPRK officials hold high-level talks

By Agencies in Seoul | China Daily | Updated: 2015-12-12 08:14

The Democratic People's Republic of Korea and the Republic of Korea held high-level talks on Friday at a DPRK border town, a small step meant to improve ties battered by a military standoff in August and decades of acrimony and bloodshed.

No major breakthrough was expected at the meeting of vice-ministerial officials in Kaesong, but analysts see even these relatively low-level talks as meaningful because they seek to carry out previously agreed reconciliation efforts - something the rivals have often failed to do in the past.

The last such sit-down, with the mandate to discuss a range of inter-Korean issues, took place nearly two years ago.

"Let's take a crucial first step to pave the way for reunification. I hope various pending issues will be solved one by one," the ROK's chief delegate, Hwang Boo-gi, told his DPRK counterpart, Jon Jong-su, as they shook hands.

Jon said the talks were an opportunity to overcome the decades of mistrust and confrontation. "Let's make efforts to break down the barrier, fill up the cracks and make a new and wide road together," he said.

Analysts said a positive result would see the two sides simply agreeing to continue the dialogue and offering some encouraging words about future cooperation.

"The outcome this time could have a significant impact on the path the overall inter-Korea relationship takes next year," said Cheong Seong-chang, an analyst at the Sejong Institute think tank in Seoul.

The talks came a day after DPRK leader Kim Jong-Un said the country had developed a hydrogen bomb - a claim greeted with skepticism by US and ROK intelligence officials.

There was no set agenda in Kaesong, but both sides have clear, if not necessarily complementary priorities.

ROK officials want to discuss more reunions between aging family members separated by the 1950-53 Korean War. Analysts have said the DPRK might seek the ROK's commitment to restart joint tours to its scenic Diamond Mountain resort, which were suspended by Seoul in 2008 following the shooting death of an ROK tourist there by a DPRK soldier.

Expectations for Friday's meeting dropped last month when both sides in preparatory negotiations settled for a meeting at the vice-ministerial level. This likely ruled out discussions on more important issues.



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