North, South Korea meet in fresh bid to improve ties after standoff

A North Korean soldier looking out at Panmunjom.
A North Korean soldier looking out at Panmunjom.PHOTO: ST FILE

SEOUL (REUTERS) - North and South Korean officials met for talks on Thursday (Nov 26) to further ease tensions after they ended an armed standoff in August, their latest attempt to revive dialogue stalled for five years.

The talks at the border truce village of Panmunjom come after the two sides signed an agreement in which Pyongyang expressed regret over landmine blasts near the border that wounded two South Korean soldiers.

The talks are a fresh attempt at dialogue between the rivals, which have all-but cut off ties since 2010, when a South Korean navy ship was destroyed by a torpedo that Seoul said was fired from a North Korean submarine. Pyongyang denies any role.

The North also bombed a South Korean island later that year, blaming Seoul for provoking it by firing into its territorial waters during a military exercise. "We will do our best to faithfully carry out the agreements from the last high-level talks," South Korea's chief delegate Kim Ki-woong told reporters in Seoul.

As part of the Aug 25 agreement, the two sides held reunions last month of families separated during the 1950-53 Korean war. North and South Korea are technically still at war because the conflict ended in an armistice, not a peace treaty.

If dialogue makes progress, the North is expected to seek the resumption of cross-border tours from the South to its Mount Kumgang resort, a once-lucrative source of cash for the impoverished state that was suspended in 2008.

Seoul in turn is expected to try to get Pyongyang to agree to hold family reunions on a regular basis, a top humanitarian priority for the South, where there are more than 60,000 mostly elderly people who are looking for relatives in the North.