North Korea proposes talks on joint complex with South Korea | world | Hindustan Times
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North Korea proposes talks on joint complex with South Korea

world Updated: Feb 22, 2010 10:02 IST
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North Korea

North Korea proposed Monday that it join South Korea next week for military talks on how to push progress forward on developing a joint factory park in the communist country, an official said.

The complex, located at the North Korean border town of Kaesong, is a key symbol of inter-Korean cooperation because it combines South Korean capital and know-how with cheap North Korean labor.

The park was put in jeopardy last year amid high tension between the Koreas, which remain in a state of war because their 1950-53 conflict ended in a truce, not a peace treaty.

Earlier this month, officials from the two Koreas met but failed to reach a breakthrough on the complex's further development. The sides agreed instead to hold separate military talks to discuss South Korea's longtime request that border crossings be eased for its workers at Kaesong.

On Monday, the North sent a message proposing the military talks be held at Kaesong on March 2, said an official at Seoul's Defense Ministry, on condition of anonymity citing department policy.

South Korea, which had earlier told the North it wants to hold the talks at the southern part of the border village of Panmunjom this week, was considering whether to accept the North's counterproposal, the official said.

The North has been reaching out to the US and South Korea in recent months, with leader Kim Jong Il telling a visiting Chinese envoy this month that Pyongyang remains committed to a nuclear-free Korea.

Kim later sent his chief nuclear envoy to Beijing for talks on the resumption of disarmament negotiations on the North's nuclear weapons program.

North Korea quit the nuclear talks and conducted a second atomic test last year, inviting tighter UN sanctions. The regime has called for a lifting of the sanctions and peace talks formally ending the 1950-53 Korean War before it returns to the disarmament talks.

The US,South Korea and Japan have said the North must first return to the negotiations and produce progress in denuclearization.