North, South in accord for wide-ranging talks

Posted in Koreas | 24-Jun-05 | Author: Ser Myo-ja| Source: Joong Ang Daily

South Korean Unification Minister Chung Dong-Young (R) shakes hands with North Korea's head delegate Kwon Ho-Ung at a joint press conference after their meeting in Seoul June 23, 2005.

June 24, 2005 - Ending three days of ministerial talks, representatives of North and South Korea said yesterday they had reached a general agreement to hold talks in July and August on ways to reduce military tension on the peninsula, on promoting reunions of families separated by the Korean War and on rice aid to Pyongyang.

North Korea's chief delegate, cabinet councilor Kwon Ho-ung, and Unification Minister Chung Dong-young of South Korea issued a 12-point statement last night, saying that North Korea will send a government delegation to the Aug. 15 Liberation Day celebration in Seoul. The day marks Korea's independence from Japan's colonial rule in 1945.

The two Koreas also addressed efforts to resolve the nuclear crisis on the Korean Peninsula, saying they would attempt to take "substantial actions" once there is the "right atmosphere" for success.

"The right atmosphere means the resumption of six-nation talks," Kim Cheon-sik, Seoul's spokesman for the talks, explained at a news conference. "Substantial actions will include necessary measures, such as disposal of nuclear arms."

The two Koreas also agreed to restart reunions of separated families on Aug. 26. They promised to hold Red Cross talks on humanitarian issues, also in August.

A meeting to explore greater economic cooperation will be held in Seoul on July 9, the two sides said. The South also agreed to provide rice aid to the North, and the details of providing the assistance will be discussed at the economic talks. Pyongyang has reportedly asked for 400,000 tons of rice aid.

The two Koreas said they would convene military talks at the general staff level at Mount Paektu in North Korea, but did not fix a date.

The dates for the next round of the ministerial talks were set for Sept. 13 to 16 at Mount Paektu.

Before announcing the accord, a small group of North Korean delegates paid a courtesy call at the Blue House to meet with President Roh Moo-hyun. It was Mr. Roh's first official reception of senior officials from Pyongyang since his administration took office in February 2003.

At the meeting, Mr. Roh expressed appreciation to the two Koreas' delegations for their efforts, according to the Blue House spokesman, Kim Man-soo.

"Mr. Roh stressed that the nuclear crisis should be resolved peacefully and urged North Korea to make a bold decision as soon as possible," Mr. Kim said.

Meanwhile, the North's state-run Korea Central News Agency yesterday denounced a meeting at the White House between U.S. President George W. Bush and a prominent North Korean defector, journalist Kang Chol-hwan, warning that such an encounter is "a move pouring cold water on efforts to resume the six-nation nuclear disarmament talks."