South Korea offering high-level talks to North

Dec 29, 2014, 12:42 AM EST
Soldiers from South Korea (R) and North Korea (C back) stand guard on their respective sides at the truce village of Panmunjom in the Demilitarized Zone dividing the two Koreas on November 12, 2014.
AFP/Getty Images

South Korea has offered to resume high-level talks next month with North Korea on a range of issues, to prepare for a "peaceful unification." The BBC reports:

Unification Minister Ryoo Kihl-jae said he especially hoped to discuss the reunion of families separated by the Korean War more than 60 years ago.

There has been no response yet from Pyongyang. The North has previously seen the South's unification plans as an attempt to take it over. "North and South Korea should meet face to face to draw up a plan for a peaceful unification," Mr Ryoo told a news conference.

"For this purpose, we make an official proposal for the North Korean government to have a conversation about mutual concerns between North and South in January next year."

The minister said he hoped North Korea "responds positively" to the suggestion.

He offered to meet in Seoul, Pyongyang or any other South or North Korean city agreed with North Korean officials.

The last formal high-level talks were in February, leading to rare reunions for Korean families.

A delegation of high-level North Korean officials made a surprise visit in October to the closing ceremony of the Asian Games hosted by the South, and promised to reopen dialogue between the two. Reuters reports:

However, the two sides failed to hold follow-up talks as tension persisted, with the North lashing out at the South over anti-Pyongyang propaganda leaflets sent to the North via balloon by activist groups.

Military officials from North and South Korea met in October to discuss border altercations, including exchanges of fire, but they did not resolve their differences. South Korea imposed a broad set of sanctions on Pyongyang in 2010 following the sinking of a South Korean corvette that killed 46 sailors.

South Korea blamed the North, while Pyongyang denied it was responsible, and the issue has been an obstacle to re-engagement ever since.

Ryoo said South Korea would explain to the North its inter-Korean cooperation plans, including a peace park at the demilitarized zone, adding that it was seeking a fresh round of reunions for families separated by the Korean War before the Lunar New Year holidays in February.

The two Koreas have remained technically at war for more than six decades as the Korean War ended in an armistice, not a peace treaty. Reunification of the Korean peninsula has been a priority for South Korean President Park Geun-hye.

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