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28 Feb, 2007 19:39

Hopes high for reconciliation between North and South Korea

Hopes high for reconciliation between North and South Korea

North and South Korea seem to be making progress towards reconciliation at their first high-level talks in seven months. During the meeting the North proposed a full resumption of humanitarian projects with its neighbour.

Diplomatic relations between North and South Koreas came under heavy strain last July when the North launched a series of ballistic missiles. And divisions widened further when the North test-fired a nuclear device in October. In response to this, Seoul suspended its annual aid of rice and fertilizers, given to help North Korea with its food shortage.

Now reconciliatory talks have been revitalised with both parties seeking to secure their goals. The South used the talks to call on Pyongyang to keep its side of the disarmament deal signed during the last round of six-party talks that provides for DPRK shutting down its nuclear reactor in 60 days, in exchange for aid. For its part, North Korea proposed the full resumption of humanitarian projects including the reunion of families split up during the division of the Korean peninsular in 1945 and aid deliveries.

Earlier Aleksander Vorontsov, an analyst of the Institute of Oriental Studies, told Russia Today this aid is a matter of critical concern to Pyongyang.

“Despite the fact that during the last five years the country saw a gradual improvement with the food situation, last year North Korea suffered from flood in its eastern coast, then it faced a shortage of fresh water in the autumn, and now in the spring, when the agricultural season begins, they need fertilizers badly,” he said.

The talks in Pyongyang come amid buoyed expectations that the North will indeed end its nuclear ambitions. The next round of 6-party talks to move the issue forward will be held on March 19 with negotiators holding working groups in the run-up.

Early reports suggest Russia will be heading the security discussion, which will meet at a date after March 12. Moscow says it wants to see the Korean Peninsula denuclearised as it views any related work in the region as a potential threat to Russia's Far East.