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ROK offers high-level talks with DPRK

Updated: 2014-08-11 15:37
( Xinhua)

SEOUL - The Republic of Korea (ROK) offered Monday to the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) to hold the senior-level inter-Korean talks next week to discuss reunion of families separated by the 1950-53 Korean War.

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"The government sent a proposal under the name of Kim Kyou- hyun, chief delegate of the ROK, to the North via the inter- Korean communications channel this morning, proposing to hold the second inter-Korean high-level meeting," Seoul's Unification Ministry said in a statement.

The ROK proposed to hold the meeting on Aug. 19, considering the preparation time, and called for the DPRK to suggest a convenient date if necessary.

Seoul offered to meet at Tongilgak, the administrative building on the DPRK side of Panmunjom, the border town of the two Koreas.

The ministry said Seoul delivered its stance to Pyongyang to discuss mutual interests, including the family reunion, at the high-level dialogue.

It noted the ROK hoped to hold the reunion of separated families by taking the opportunity of the Chuseok holiday, one of the biggest South Korea's traditional holiday that falls on Sept. 8 this year.

If the DPRK accepts the proposal, it would be the second high- level dialogue since President Park Geun-hye took office in February last year.

Kim Kyou-hyun, first deputy chief of the presidential national security office and former first vice foreign minister, led the South Korean delegation in mid-February for the first vice ministerial-level talks.

At that time, the DPRK side was headed by Won Don-yon, the No. 2 man at the United Front Department of the Workers' Party of Korea, a control tower in charge of the DPRK's relations with the ROK.

After the first high-level talks, the two Koreas made the three- point agreement, including joint efforts to improve inter-Korean ties, the stop of slandering each other and the holding of the already agreed-upon family reunion.

From Feb. 20 to 25, hundreds of Koreans met their long-lost family members separated by the three-year war at the DPRK's scenic resort of Mount Kumgang.

Despite Pyongyang's call for delay or cancellation of joint military exercises between the ROK and the United States, the two allies staged the "Key Resolve" and "Foal Eagle" war games from Feb. 24 to April 18 as planned.

Angering over the military drills, the DPRK fired scores of short-range missiles and artillery shells, and threatened a new form of nuclear test.

Seoul and Washington are scheduled to conduct another joint annual military drill, called Ulchi Freedom Guardian (UFG), in August, which Pyongyang has denounced as a rehearsal for the northward invasion.

However, a senior Unification Ministry official told reporters that the ROK will not exclude any specific agenda from the upcoming dialogue table, raising possibilities for issues the DPRK has requested to be discussed.

Pyongyang has demanded tours to the Mount Kumgang resort in the DPRK's southeast coast be resumed and the so-called May 24 sanctions on the DPRK be lifted.

The tour, launched in 1998, was halted in July 2008 when a South Korean female tourist was shot dead by a DPRK solider after venturing into an off-limit area.

The May 24 sanctions were imposed by the ROK in 2010 when the South Korean Navy corvette Cheonan sank in waters near the disputed western maritime border with the DPRK in March that year, banning all inter-Korean exchanges except for the joint factory park in the DPRK's border town of Kaesong.

The family reunion is an urgent, humanitarian issue between the two Koreas as millions of Koreans have been separated since the Korea War ended in armistice in 1953, which banned exchange of letters and phone calls.

According to the government data, more than 70,000 South Koreans have been on the waiting list for the family reunion since 1988, with all the applicants expected to pass away within 20 years from now due to their old age.

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