Asia

North and South Korea hold rare talks aimed at improving ties

A North Korean soldier stands next to the demarcation line in Panmunjom, on the border between North Korea and South Korea Tuesday 7 Aug 2007 Image copyright AP
Image caption The officials are meeting in the truce village of Panmunjom in the demilitarised zone

Officials from North and South Korea are meeting for rare talks aimed at improving long-strained ties, after a military stand-off in August.

The meeting is taking place at the truce village of Panmunjom in the demilitarised zone.

Tension between the two sides ramped up in August when a border blast injured two South Korean soldiers.

Meetings at that time eventually led to the two countries stepping away from a military confrontation.

The BBC's Stephen Evans in Seoul says Thursday's talks, agreed after the standoff, are unlikely to produce any grand result, but their significance is that they are taking place in what has been a continual atmosphere of mistrust.

There are no big issues on the agenda, but rather matters of how to continue meeting, perhaps at increasingly senior levels, he says.

The two sides are expected to discuss details such as the timing and agenda of higher-level talks, reported South Korean news agency Yonhap.

The South's chief negotiator, Kim Ki-Woong, told reporters before the meeting: "We are resolved to maintaining the momentum for dialogue that was started by the August agreement."

Image copyright AP
Image caption The talks are taking place in the northern side of the truce village

In June 2013, the two sides agreed to hold what would have been the first high-level dialogue for six years. But just the day before the scheduled meeting, Pyongyang cancelled it, citing the seniority of the South Korean negotiator.

De-escalation

On 4 August two South Korean soldiers by the border were seriously injured by a landmine blast, which was blamed on the North. The North denied planting the landmine.

The South began propaganda broadcasts into the North, infuriating Pyongyang which in turn declared a "semi-state of war" and began deploying troops to the frontline.

But after talks, also held at Panmunjom, the two countries reached a deal to de-escalate tensions with the South stopping the broadcasts and the North pulling back troops.

They also agreed to work towards a resumption of reunions for families separated by the 1950-53 Korean War, a recurring point of contention.

That conflict ended with an armistice, which means the two countries are still technically at war.

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