SEOUL: North and South Korea struck on Monday a patchy agreement to hold a high-level meeting in Seoul, following marathon talks aimed at rebuilding trust after months of soaring tension and threats of nuclear war.
Sunday’s preparatory talks, held in the border truce village of Panmunjom where the armistice ending the 1950-53 Korean War was signed, were the first between the two rivals for more than two years.
In a sign of the trust deficit that remains six decades after the armistice agreement, they dragged on into Monday morning as the two sides struggled to agree a framework for a more substantive dialogue.
They concluded by settling for a two-day meeting in the South Korean capital beginning Wednesday, but with some confusion over precisely who would attend and what topics would be discussed.
“Both sides issued separate statements on the outcome after failing to narrow differences over the level of chief delegate and agenda,” the South’s Unification Ministry said.
Agreed topics for discussion in Seoul include the future of the Kaesong joint industrial complex which the North effectively shut down as the recent military tensions between the historic rivals peaked.
The resumption of South Korean civilian tours to the North’s Mount Kumgang resort and reunions between families divided since the Korean War will also figure, the separate statements said.
Sunday’s talks came about after an unexpected reversal from North Korea, which suddenly dropped its default tone of high-decibel belligerence and proposed opening a dialogue.
South Korea responded swiftly by offering a meeting in Seoul between its Unification Minister and his North Korean counterpart, which Sunday’s talks in Panmunjom were meant to set up.
The two Koreas have not held ministerial talks since 2007.