Koreas Meet in Senior-Level Confab After Months of Tension

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Global Security Newswire Staff
Feb. 12, 2014, 5:30 a.m.

Seoul and Py­ongy­ang on Wed­nes­day held seni­or-level talks that dealt with a range of is­sues, in­clud­ing planned U.S.-South Korea mil­it­ary drills.

The rare dis­cus­sions at the truce vil­lage of Pan­mun­jom rep­res­en­ted the highest level of con­tact between the two Koreas since 2007, the Yon­hap News Agency re­por­ted.

A South Korean Uni­fic­a­tion Min­istry of­fi­cial said del­eg­ates from the two na­tions ex­changed views in a “sin­cere” way on a range of mat­ters. He sug­ges­ted that Py­ongy­ang re­newed its op­pos­i­tion to the an­nu­al Key Re­solve/Foal Eagle drills with the United States, which are to be­gin later this month.

Seoul and Wash­ing­ton have said they are com­mit­ted to mov­ing for­ward with the drills. The in­volve­ment of U.S. nuc­le­ar-cap­able bombers in last year’s ex­er­cises in­furi­ated Py­ongy­ang, which re­spon­ded with pre­par­a­tions to carry out bal­list­ic-mis­sile strikes on the two al­lies.

North Korea a few days ago sought the Wed­nes­day meet­ing un­ex­pec­tedly, fol­low­ing a num­ber of sig­nals to Seoul about its in­terest in im­prov­ing re­la­tions. In­ter­ac­tions have re­mained fairly tense since 2010, when two Py­ongy­ang at­tacks on South Korea killed dozens of people.

“We ap­proach today’s talks with an in­ten­tion of prob­ing for op­por­tun­it­ies to open a new re­la­tion­ship on the Korean Pen­in­sula, said Kim Kyu-hy­un, a deputy na­tion­al se­cur­ity ad­viser to the South Korean pres­id­ent, in re­marks to re­port­ers be­fore he traveled to Pan­mun­jom to head up the South Korean del­eg­a­tion, the New York Times re­por­ted.

China on Tues­day ap­plauded the two Koreas for their en­gage­ment and urged fol­low-on ac­tion, Yon­hap sep­ar­ately re­por­ted.

A del­eg­a­tion of Chinese of­fi­cials traveled to North Korea last week — the first Chinese dip­lo­mats to do so fol­low­ing the sur­prise Decem­ber purge of North Korean ruler Kim Jong Un’s power­ful uncle, Yon­hap re­por­ted. The ex­e­cu­tion of Jang Song Thaek pre­cip­it­ated re­gion­al con­cerns about the sta­bil­ity of the Kim re­gime, which were it to ab­ruptly col­lapse could lead to re­duced se­cur­ity around the coun­try’s nuc­le­ar sites.

An uniden­ti­fied dip­lo­mat­ic source in Beijing said he be­lieved the Chinese del­eg­a­tion in­cluded of­fi­cials in­volved in the long-frozen mul­tina­tion­al talks aimed at North Korean de­nuc­lear­iz­a­tion.

The North Korean nuc­le­ar im­passe will be one of the is­sues that U.S. Sec­ret­ary of State John Kerry dis­cusses with this South Korean op­pos­ite when he vis­its Seoul on Thursday, ac­cord­ing to Yon­hap.

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