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.


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

    Comment number 105.

    Brainwashed, Enslaved, and Miserable

    I'm not describing North Koreans ... I'm describing the warmongers on this HYS

  • rate this

    Comment number 104.

    north korea is such a stark contrast to south. the kim's have manage to turn communism into a theocracy through a propaganda machine that is not going to change anytime soon as his uncle in-law found out

  • rate this

    Comment number 103.

    It's a forward step.

  • rate this

    Comment number 102.

    Hadn't...I was going to serve that up in between courses.
    For me the 3 generations of the Bush family encapsulate everything that is rotten about western politics.
    Prescott Bush had to be forced to stop providing banking services in North America for Hitler, his son was ultra chummy with Hussein when he was gassing Kurds and well, we all know about Dubya...

  • rate this

    Comment number 101.

    @94.Billythefirst. Do you even know what you are talking about. What regime in Tibet does China support? Tibet is an Automonous Region of China

  • rate this

    Comment number 100.

    Hey, anti-china guy is back!
    Patriots system is supposed to be defensive, but when you draw your defense map over international/foreign/disputed waters, it isn't defensive anymore is it?
    I can stick a gun right at my front door, pointing at yours, defensive? If you say so.

  • rate this

    Comment number 99.

    96. FelipeinSpain
    @95.Peter_Sym. All the missiles in Taiwán are American.The other weapons you mention are not in the same league as missiles.
    And all the weapons in North Korean are Chinese/Russian. So what? Ever heard of Silkworms? Chinese anti-ship missile used by Iran to sink oil tankers in the Iran-Iraq war.

    Incidentally what missiles in Taiwan? Patriots? They're defensive.

  • rate this

    Comment number 98.


    Oh, and don't forget that Hitler, the communist revolution in Russia, Mao in China were all bankrolled by western bankers and industrialist clans such as the Rothechilde, Rockefeller, Carnegie, Morgan, Chase, Bush. It's all there in the history books for people to read.

  • rate this

    Comment number 97.

    Just don't fall out with the Kim Jong Un clan!!!.......

    His uncle came a cropper for really trivial things.....(gulp)

  • rate this

    Comment number 96.

    @95.Peter_Sym. All the missiles in Taiwán are American.The other weapons you mention are not in the same league as missiles.

  • rate this

    Comment number 95.

    93. BluesBerry
    N. & S. Korea, high-level talks - without the US?
    This would indeed be a good step forward.
    Without US bomb-baster, these two states likely would have been united years ago.
    Yup. In 1950. Under communist control.

    #92. Whats Russia & China's motives in selling arms to the entire middle east, Africa & much of SE Asia including NK then? AK47s, RPGs, T55s & MIGS aren't american.

  • rate this

    Comment number 94.

    78. Will
    71Fark/ 74Billy
    For starters it is China that props up NK, just as it props up regimes in Zimbabwe and Tibet.
    Will, for starters....
    Noriega Hussein Mubarak Pinochet Zia Marcos Papa Doc D Suharto Mobuto.....
    More available for main course and desert including Park Chung Chee an absolute charmer.

  • rate this

    Comment number 93.

    N. & S. Korea, high-level talks - without the US?
    This would indeed be a good step forward.
    Without US bomb-baster, these two states likely would have been united years ago.

  • rate this

    Comment number 92.

    I have the impression that America´s main interest in supporting South Korea is the same as its support for Taiwán; that is selling its military hardware to them and destabilising the región for its own ends

  • rate this

    Comment number 91.

    Silly little boys!

  • rate this

    Comment number 90.

    Calling all North-bashers:-
    Please re-read BBC's Lucy Williamson's summary:-

    ''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''

    One invitation in 6 years... not from the South but from the North

    The 'Road to Peace' is clearly a 2-way street

  • rate this

    Comment number 89.

    84. Global Yawning : To be honest I'm not entirely sure why we're in Afghanistan either but we do seem to be leaving & I haven't noticed any massive lithium mines being built by the UK/US either. As for opium what use is that? You can synthesise opiates for medical purposes for pennies or grow as much as you want pretty much anywhere. (We used to grow it in Bengal to sell to China)

  • rate this

    Comment number 88.


    Vladivostock is within Russia. Sevastepol was within the USSR. Syrian port is not far from Russia but designed to give access to the med. Look at the fuss made when Russia wanted nukes in Cuba - why do you think NK, Iran, Russia are rightly up in arms with US placing bases NOT ON THEIR OWN SOIL to threaten them.

    It's hypocricy, and if you can't see it you must be blind.

  • rate this

    Comment number 87.

    Re Post 57 Nick Funnell.

    NK sounds like heaven, cant wait to get fitted for a Military Uniform. So I can Tick-Tock and kill innocent people................get a life and face reality !

  • rate this

    Comment number 86.

    Hard to tell whether you're serious.
    North Korea/ East Asia has long been strategically pivotal for all powers.
    Also there are Russian bases in Vladivostok (bordering China/NK), Tartus (Syria), Sevastopol (Ukraine) designed to keep rivals in check. I could go on and start with the Cuban Missile Crisis.
    By your logic China should just invade NK and keep going until it reaches Japan?


Page 10 of 15


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