Koreas Agree to Talk Sunday in Bid to Ease Tension
Seoul – North and South Korea will meet Sunday in a village straddling their heavily armed border for the first government-level talks on the peninsula in more than two years as they try to lower tension and restore stalled projects that once symbolized their rapprochement. The North on Saturday delivered its agreement to talk in Panmunjom through a Red Cross line restored a day earlier, the Unification Ministry said in a text message. Pyongyang had earlier favored its border city of Kaesong, which contains the industrial park emptied in May after tensions peaked.
Representatives of the rival Koreas met on the peninsula in February 2011 and their nuclear envoys met in Beijing later that year, but government officials from both sides have not met since. Sunday’s meeting would be clearest sign of eased tensions since Pyongyang threatened to attack South Korea and the United States with nuclear missiles earlier this year, and the South made counter-threats.
It also comes as their top allies are meeting. President Barack Obama opened a weekend summit Friday with Chinese President Xi Jinping in California to discuss several topics, including North Korea’s nuclear programs.
China provides the lifeline for North Korea struggling with energy and other economic needs and views stability in Pyongyang as crucial for its own economy and border security. But after Pyongyang conducted its third nuclear test in February, China tightened its cross-border trade inspections and banned its state banks from dealing with North Korea’s Foreign Trade Bank.(AP)