Nuclear envoys from two Koreas hold rare meeting
South Korea's nuclear envoy has held rare talks with his North Korean counterpart in Beijing.
No details were given, but ahead of the meeting the South's Wi Sung-lac said talks with Ri Yong-ho would focus on ending Pyongyang's nuclear programme.
The two last met on the sidelines of a regional summit in July - the first such contact since denuclearisation talks collapsed over two years ago.
The meeting comes after several months of high tension between the two Koreas.
South Korea blames North Korea for sinking one of its warships in March 2010 with the loss of 46 lives - a charge Pyongyang denies.
Relations were further strained in November when North Korea shelled a Southern border island, killing four people.
But the talks come amid signs that some efforts to restart the stalled six-party nuclear negotiations are under way.
During a speech in New York on Tuesday, South Korean President Lee Myung-bak said: "The most important thing for that is to remove threats to peace on the Korean Peninsula through denuclearisation and to build mutual trust between the South and the North."
Meanwhile, religious leaders from South Korea have travelled to Pyongyang to convey their aspirations for peace on the Korean Peninsula.
During the rare trip, the delegation representing South Korea's seven main religious groups - including Buddhists, Protestants, and Catholics - plans to meet religious counterparts and hold prayer services for peace.
A South Korean Foreign Ministry official said Mr Wi would meet China's nuclear envoy on Thursday, according to the Associated Press.
North Korea walked out of the six-party nuclear talks - which involved both Koreas, Russia, the US, Japan and China - in 2009, amid wrangling over how experts could verify that information it had disclosed on its weapons programmes was complete.
It has, however, in recent months been calling for a return to the talks.
South Korea says it will not support any resumption unless Pyongyang takes responsibility for the 2010 attacks and shows it is sincerely committed to moving forward.
Ahead of Wednesday's meeting, Mr Wi said he hoped the talks would achieve "a fruitful result".
"Rather than discussing a specific programme, I plan to talk about making overall progress toward denuclearisation," he said.
Under a deal agreed in 2005, North Korea pledged to abandon its nuclear ambitions in return for economic and political incentives.
But implementation of the deal hit numerous roadblocks and in April 2009, North Korea abandoned the talks. It then carried out its second nuclear test and later disclosed it had a uranium enrichment programme.
South Korea and the US want Pyongyang to halt all nuclear activities, including uranium enrichment, and allow UN inspectors into the country before the talks reopen.
Host China wants the talks to restart, with Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi praising "new positive interactions among the parties".
"The parties must seize the opportunities and keep the momentum of the dialogue going," he said.