Healing the rift

The North and South Korea border.
The North and South Korea border.

SEOUL — North and South Korea announced today they were planning to hold talks for the first time since February 2011, signalling attempts to repair ties that have been ruptured for months.

For months earlier this year, North Korea unleashed an almost daily stream of threats against the South and its ally, the United States, vowing to attack them with nuclear weapons. Tension on the Korean peninsula was at the highest in decades, but has waned since joint US-South Korean military drills ended in late April.

North Korea’s state-owned KCNA news agency issued a statement today proposing talks with the South on normalising commercial projects, including the joint industrial zone that was closed at the height of tensions in early April.

It also said Pyongyang would restore severed communications channels if the South accepted the offer of talks, indicating it was prepared to roll back a series of hostile steps it has taken as relations deteriorated.

South Korea welcomed the offer, proposing the talks be held on June 12 between ministers to discuss a range of issues including the commercial projects and families split during the 1950-53 Korean War.

“We hope that the talks take place between the authorities of the South and the North as we proposed and are accepted by the North and become an occasion for relations to develop based on mutual trust,” Unification Minister Ryoo Kihl-jae said.

The North, in the statement by its Committee for the Peaceful Reunification of Korea which handles ties with the South, also proposed discussing the reopening of tours to a mountain resort and family reunions as well as to hold events to mark the 2000 summit of their leaders that opened a decade of warmer ties.

“We propose holding talks between authorities of the North and the South for the normalisation of the operation in the KIZ (Kaesong industrial zone) and the resumption of tours of Mt. Kumgang on the occasion of the anniversary of the June 15 joint declaration,” the committee said. (Reuters)

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