North and South Korea restart talks


Seoul : North and South Korea held their first high-level talks in almost two years Saturday amid indications of an easing of tensions on the Korean peninsula.

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South Korea’s Minister of Unification Hyun In Taek met Kim Yang Gon, the head of the unification front department of North Korea’s ruling Korean Workers’ Party, South Korean media said.

Kim, who is responsible for contacts with the South, was in Seoul as part of a delegation sent by North Korean ruler Kim Jong Il.

South Korean public broadcaster KBS said one of the issues discussed was a resumption of dialogue broken off by the North because of the tough line taken by the conservative South Korean government elected in February 2008.

“It is of utmost importance the relations between the two Koreas improve,” Kim Yang Gon said before the talks got under way.

The six-member delegation was visiting to pay the North’s respects to former South Korean president Kim Dae Jung who died Tuesday. Kim Dae Jung worked hard to promote North-South relations.

The group had planned to leave a day before Kim Dae Jung’s state funeral Sunday, but extended its stay by one day.

Unification Minister Hyun invited the delegation to another round of talks and dinner on Saturday evening.

Analysts did to rule out that the head of the North’s delegation would meet South Korean President Lee Myung Bak.

After rising tensions in recent months caused in part by North Korea’s test-firing of a long-range missile and its second nuclear test, there have been increasing signs of North Korea’s readiness to improve relations with the South.

Delegations from both countries met several times between April and early July in the North Korean border town of Kaesong, where the North and South Korea jointly operate an industrial park.