North and South Korea hold rare high-level talks

 

The talks are taking place ahead of South Korea's annual military exercises with the US, as Lucy Williamson reports

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North and South Korea have held their highest level talks in years, exploring ways to improve their tense relations.

Two rounds of meetings - requested by Pyongyang - took place at the border village of Panmunjom. More may follow.

There has been no word on how the talks went. Family reunions planned for this month were expected to be discussed, but the agenda was left open.

Pyongyang has threatened to cancel the reunions because of annual South Korea-US military exercises due in February.

China, Pyongyang's main ally, welcomed the talks, the highest-level meeting with the North and South have held since 2007.

The BBC's Lucy Williamson, who was at the border area, says the delegations appeared to greet each other cordially.

The two sides met for 90 minutes in the morning at South Korea's side of Panmunjom and then reconvened for three hours in the afternoon, after which the two chief delegates held one-to-one discussions.

Analysis

South Korean officials say they were pleasantly surprised when North Korea's invitation arrived. It is the first time in more than six years, they say, that a meeting at this level has taken place. A similar attempt last year fell victim to a spat over protocol, but this time both sides appear more willing to talk.

The meeting comes after weeks of pointed diplomatic overtures by Pyongyang that have raised hopes in some quarters that the mood on the peninsula is changing.

But others point out that previous North Korean charm offensives have been followed by renewed confrontation, and that Pyongyang's new cordiality has come with a warning: that the joint military exercises scheduled to take place this month between the US and South Korea are incompatible with friendlier inter-Korean ties.

'Open mind'

South Korea's Deputy National Security Adviser Kim Kyou-hyun is leading Seoul's delegation at the Panmunjom talks.

Ahead of the meeting, Mr Kim said: "This is an opportunity to open a new era of the Korean peninsula.

"I would like to attend the meeting with 'open attitude and mind' to study the opportunity.

"We will make an effort to proceed with the separated families reunion event as agreed," he added.

North Korea's delegation is being headed by Won Tong-yon, a senior official specialising in inter-Korean ties, South Korean officials said.

In a news conference in Geneva on Tuesday, North Korea's ambassador to the UN, So Se-pyong, spoke of the need to terminate all hostile military actions, which he described as the main obstacles to peace.

He called for the US and South Korea to suspend their planned military exercises, describing them as "of a sinister and dangerous nature".

The two Koreas are due to hold reunions of families, divided by the partitioning of the Korean Peninsula at the end of the 1950-53 Korean War, for five days from 20 February.

The last such reunions took place in 2010. But these reunions coincide with the start of the US-South Korea joint military drills - annual exercises that anger North Korea.

The drills last year led to a prolonged rise in tensions, as North Korea threatened pre-emptive nuclear strikes and withdrew its workers from a joint industrial zone.

Many in South Korea see Pyongyang's reaction as a test of its new approach, the BBC's Lucy Williamson in Seoul reports.

Last week Pyongyang threatened to cancel the family reunions, warning that "dialogue and exercises of war" could not go hand-in-hand.

More than the talks, the exercises are for many people the real test of whether Pyongyang's charm offensive is a sign of change, or simply a prelude to more confrontation, our correspondent says.

 

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  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 65.

    @ 54

    Spot on. I too am amazed by the approach of some on this forum. They seem intelligent and yet show ignorance to the atrocities committed by NK because they are so blinded by their hate for the USA.

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 64.

    62.family guy
    @57.Nick Funnell

    NK has no environmental problems - FACT!
    NK does not have bankers ruining its economy for their own perverted gain- FACT!
    NK houses all its citizens with no-one living like a dog begging on the streets- FACT!
    NK is not run by paedophiles- FACT!
    NK has no racial wars- FACT!
    _

    You work for KCNA .. fact

    -
    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-26071149 -FACT

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 63.

    57Nick
    That is just scary.
    The North Korean leadership build ski resorts and live in obscene luxury while thousands die of famine and exposure during most winters. It's ground water is in many places contaminated, the elite regularly take school girls (and boys) for their pleasure and they consider South Koreans and thnic Chinese as inferior.
    Aside from all that...

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 62.

    @57.Nick Funnell

    NK has no environmental problems like the West & China- FACT!
    NK does not have bankers ruining its economy for their own perverted gain- FACT!
    NK houses all its citizens with no-one living like a dog begging on the streets- FACT!
    NK is not run by paedophiles- FACT!
    NK has no racial wars- FACT!

    Consider FACTS before you comment!
    _



    You should work for KCNA ......... fact

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 61.

    35. family guy
    @25.lechaise_

    A ''Fact'' eh? Hmm... "

    It seems you & those who voted your comment up conveniently forget the ships sunk, airliner shot down, the assination attempts, the nuclear weapons testing, islands bombarded
    The south are right to be vigilant. NK follows a pattern each time talks start, this will be no different.

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 60.

    Only place these talks should be held is in a hot air ballon

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 59.

    55.
    Popojo

    How ANYBODY here could possibly support NK just beats me. It is communist country (that already says a lot - communism is the supreme evil

    ------------------------------------------------------

    I assume you are fully aware a former communist is now head of the European parliament?

  • rate this
    +7

    Comment number 58.

    Here's a idea, why don't we drop sanctions against north korea and give them the flexibility to function properly. Then instead of being negative about them choosing socialism over capitalism, lets see if their social experiment can work. I am indifferent between capitalism and socialism but would be keen to see what is possible in a mini socialist state without us trying to discourage it.

  • rate this
    -18

    Comment number 57.

    NK has no environmental problems like the West & China- FACT!

    NK does not have bankers ruining its economy for their own perverted gain- FACT!

    NK houses all its citizens with no-one living like a dog begging on the streets- FACT!

    NK is not run by paedophiles- FACT!

    NK has no racial wars- FACT!

    Consider FACTS before you comment!

  • rate this
    +4

    Comment number 56.

    Just my prediction:
    They will talk, reach some kind of agreement, then North Korea throws a strop about the joint exercises, reverts any changes or annuls the agreement and blames it on the South. Cue another few years of frowning at each-other over the border then start another set of talks just before that year's exercises when the North needs to boost it's propaganda again.
    What's the chances?

  • rate this
    -6

    Comment number 55.

    How ANYBODY here could possibly support NK just beats me. It is communist country (that already says a lot - communism is the supreme evil) and a dictator to whom the people blindly assign a God-Like status. - the same people who are dying of hunger and not allowed out of the country. If that is not universally condemnable, what is ? We in the west are 1000 times better off than them..

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 54.

    33/42qqpp
    Sad that US bashing can lead an entire flock of sheep to compare prisons with TV's, blankets and toilets to the gulags in North Korea where babies are beaten to death and children forced to flog their parents.
    Why must every comments section become a playground for the ill-informed. By all means have an opinion but try to have a balanced and fair minded one.

  • rate this
    -2

    Comment number 53.

    It is the media total refusal to hold this incompetent government to account on any matter
    And I do mean any mater
    If the media had reported the flooding crises and the government’s total indifference to it
    It would have not got to this stage
    It seems the purpose of all those Cobra meeting was to find someone to blame
    Now it’s going to cost all a lot more

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 52.

    50.Jacob
    As Churchill said 'jaw-jaw is always better than to war-war'.

    == but churchill is a war lord

    51.Truth logic sustainability the final frontiers

    they are too blinded by propaganda to see the truth.

    == thanks to bbc

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 51.

    If N Korea government was a dog, it would be put down.

    Its the kind thing to do, its what N Koreans need, tho they are too blinded by propaganda to see the truth.

    These talks will go on & then as usual N Korea will play its joker card & end the game while achieving more propaganda to impose upon its people

  • rate this
    -2

    Comment number 50.

    As Churchill said 'jaw-jaw is always better than to war-war'. The US should cancel its military operations in favour of these talks.

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 49.

    In terms of GDP per head (PPP) in east asia including Singapore

    == IMF

    Macau: $82,400 (2011) - PRC
    Singapore: $61,046 (2012)
    Hong Kong: $50,936 (2012) -PRC
    Taiwan: $38,357 (2012) - ROC
    China mainland: $10,253 (2013) -PRC
    Japan: $38,297 (2014 est.)
    S Korea: $34,777 (2014 est.)

    Mongolia: $5,371 (2012) -- ROC
    N Korea: $1,800 (2011)

  • rate this
    -2

    Comment number 48.

    I think it would be instructive to live and work for a while in North Korea. It's difficult to know otherwise how accurate or complete is the picture I have of life there. Is the apparent leadership really in control, or is it a sideshow to distract commoners and outsiders?

    A North Korean could film dehumanising poverty in the UK too, if they looked in the right places. We need more exchange.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 47.

    All of the MEN in the picture are probably uncertain, and have limits to their authority... this process needs proper independent facilitation...


    ... the UN are quiet... as usual

  • rate this
    +7

    Comment number 46.

    36.
    vavahume

    You are very much correct vis-à-vis Gaddafi and Assad. However, Saddam was executed for killing 124 people. Which pales into insignificance when you count up those killed by Blair’s illegal war; but its ok, cus we're the good guys.

    It's interesting seeing your comment voted down. It would appear the BBC's propaganda is working.

 

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