Published On: Wed, Feb 12th, 2014

North And South Korea Hold Rare High-Level Talks

Officials from North and South Korea are holding their first high-level talks since 2007.The meeting – requested by Pyongyang – is taking place at the border village of Panmunjom.koreaap talks

No agenda has been set but the issue of family reunions planned for later this month is expected to be discussed.

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

The morning session started at 10:00 local time (01:00 GMT) and lasted for 90 minutes. Delegates then reconvened at South Korea’s side of Panmunjom in the afternoon, AFP news agency said.

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 which anger North Korea.

The drills last year led to a prolonged spike 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.