Rival Koreas hold first talks in years


SEOUL: North and South Korea held their first official talks for years on Sunday, confronting decades of mutual distrust in a search for some positive end to months of soaring military tensions.

The working-level discussions, which began at around 10 a.m. in the border truce village of Panmunjom, were aimed at building a framework for ministerial-level talks tentatively scheduled for Wednesday in Seoul.

The agenda will focus on restoring suspended commercial links, including the Kaesong joint industrial complex that the North effectively shut down in April as tensions between the historic rivals peaked.

“The overall atmosphere was . . . calm and the discussion proceeded with no major debates,” the South’s Unification Ministry spokesman Kim Hyung-Seok told reporters after the morning session.

The agenda, venue, date and duration of the ministerial meeting were all discussed, Kim said, adding that the meeting would resume after lunch.

The talks came about after an unexpected reversal on Thursday from North Korea, which suddenly dropped its default tone of high-decibel belligerence and proposed opening a dialogue.


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