North, South Koreas hold rare dialogue to start peace talk

North and South Korea meet in fresh attempt to improve ties after armed standoff in August

Photo by: AFP
Photo by: AFP

South Korean marines salute during a ceremony to commemorate the 5th anniversary of North Korea's shelling of Yeonpyeong Island at the War Memorial in Seoul, South Korea.

North and South Korean authorities came together on Thursday to discuss easing tensions further after war threat against each other since last summer and followed by a signed agreement from both sides.   

The talks at the border truce village of Panmunjom kicked off at 1pm local time (0400 GMT), marking the first official meeting between the sides since their last attempt to open dialogue in August.

The two sides signed an agreement in which Pyongyang expressed regret over landmine explosions closer to the border that wounded two South Korean soldiers.    

Seoul's Unification Ministry said Thursday's talk was aimed at discussing when and where those high-level meeting should be held and with what agenda.  

"We will do our best to faithfully carry out the agreements from the last high-level talks," South Korea's official delegate Kim Ki-woong told reporters in Seoul.    

Recent talks are a fresh effort for dialogue between the rivals, which have all-but blocked ties since 2010, when a South Korean war ship was destroyed by a torpedo that Seoul claimed to be from a North Korean submarine but Pyongyang denies accusations.

If talk makes progress, the North Korea is expected to seek the return of cross-border tours from South Korea to its Mount Kumgang resort, a once-profitable source of cash for the devastated state that was suspended in 2008.  

Seoul on the other hand is expected to try to persuade Pyongyang to agree to hold family reunions regularly, a big humanitarian priority for the South Korea, where more than 60,000 elderly people search for relatives in North Korea.

From the August agreement, the two sides held reunions of families separated during the 1950-53 Korean War last month. North and South Korea are technically still in war since the conflict only ended in an armistice, not a peace deal. 

TRTWorld and agencies