South Korea agrees to hold talks with North Korea

Friday, January 21, 2011

SEOUL - South Korea has finally agreed to hold talks with North Korea following several entreaties from the latter to discuss escalating tensions on the Korean peninsula.

Signaling a possible diplomatic thaw after months of tension on the Korean peninsula, South Korea on Thursday agreed to hold high-level military talks with North Korea despite a November attack by the North that killed four people on a disputed South Korean island.

Officials in Seoul announced that they would hold talks with their Northern counterparts, who in recent weeks have made several entreaties for a sit-down to discuss escalating tensions, the Los Angeles Times.

The apparent thaw in relations came just hours after a Washington summit Wednesday at which the North’s provocations and nuclear weapons program were discussed and President Obama and Chinese President Hu Jintao urged the two Koreas to resume dialogue.

In a statement to the South Korean government early Thursday, the government in Pyongyang suggested ministerial-level talks to discuss “pending” military issues between the two sides. It remained unclear late Thursday whether top political leaders from either side would be involved in the discussions.

The apparent breakthrough came after North Korea reportedly agreed to Seoul’s long-standing demands to discuss the torpedoing of a South Korean warship in March that killed 46 crewmen, according to South Korean news reports.

Seoul has blamed the North, which has denied responsibility.

Also up for discussion will be the North’s artillery shelling of the South Korean-controlled Yeonpyeong Island. Seoul also has proposed that the talks include the prospect of Pyongyang abandoning its burgeoning nuclear program.

“The South Korean government will come to the talks to ask North Korea to take responsible measures for the torpedoing of the Cheonan and the artillery attacks on Yeonpyeong and promise not to conduct further military provocation in the future,” a South Korean government official told the Yonhap news agency in Seoul. (ANI)

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