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Finally, North and South Korea agree for dialogue

North and South Korea agreed in principle Thursday to hold their first official talks for years, a move which follows months of escalated military tensions and comes one day before a US-China summit.

world Updated: Jun 07, 2013 00:45 IST

North and South Korea agreed in principle Thursday to hold their first official talks for years, a move which follows months of escalated military tensions and comes one day before a US-China summit.

A surprise offer from Pyongyang proposed discussions on a range of commercial and humanitarian issues, from reopening a joint industrial complex to resuming cross-border family reunions.

In an unusually quick reply, South Korea called for minister-level talks on June 12 in Seoul, and urged the North to reopen severed communications channels for working-level discussions from Friday.

"I hope... dialogue will provide a momentum for South and North Korea to improve relations based on mutual trust," said South Korea’s Unification Minister Ryoo Kihl-Jae. http://www.hindustantimes.com/Images/Popup/2013/6/07_06_13-metro18.gif

China, the North’s sole major ally and economic benefactor, has been under pressure from the United States to restrain its neighbour. It responded positively to the news.

“China is happy and welcomes that (North and South Korea) agreed to resume their engagement and dialogue,” said foreign ministry spokesman Hong Lei.

US President Barack Obama and his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping will hold a summit in California on Friday and Saturday, at which North Korea is likely to be a leading topic.

Analysts welcomed the development but some advised caution, saying the precise nature and agenda of the dialogue might create insurmountable sticking points.

“I think this is an attempt by the North to seize the initiative, but it’s premature to say whether the offer is likely to lead to a sincere dialogue,” said Yang Moo-Jin, a professor at the University of North Korean Studies in Seoul.

Official contacts between Seoul and Pyongyang have been essentially frozen since South Korea accused the North of torpedoing one of its warships in March 2010 with the loss of 46 lives.

April and May this year saw tensions soar to worrying levels as the North, angered by joint South-US military drills and tighter UN sanctions imposed after its nuclear test in February, threatened pre-emptive nuclear strikes.

The situation has calmed in recent weeks, with both sides circling warily around the idea of opening some sort of dialogue.

The North’s proposal, carried in a statement from the Committee for the Peaceful Reunification of Korea, said the venue and date for talks “can be set to the convenience of the South side”.