At least one part of the world seems to be calming down a little and working towards a peaceful resolution of issues. North and South Korea are still technically at war and have been for over 50 years. No doubt North Korea misses the aid provided by the south in terms of fertilizer and rice and also fuel oil.
North, South Korea agree to high-level talks
Last Updated: Thursday, February 15, 2007 | 5:18 AM ET
The Associated Press
The two Koreas agreed to resume stalled high-level talks later this month in Pyongyang, officials said Thursday, amid signs of easing tensions on the divided peninsula after the North signed a breakthrough disarmament agreement.
The cabinet-level talks — the highest dialogue channel between the two Koreas — will be held in the North's capital from Feb. 27 to March 2. The talks had been suspended for seven months amid chilled relations following North Korea's missile launches in July and nuclear test in October.
South Korea's Unification Minister Lee Jae-joung said Thursday's meeting between lower-level officials in North Korea's border city of Kaesong "would serve as an opportunity for South-North relations and dialogue to develop to a new level for peace on the Korean Peninsula."
North Korea's chief delegate Maeng Kyong Il told the meeting that "there should not be repeated vicious cycles of North-South relations frequently breaking down," according to pool reports by South Korean journalists.
South Korean delegate Lee Kwan-se told reporters in Kaesong that the two sides agreed that the cabinet-level talks should resume "as early as possible. We had a consensus that South-North relations should be restored promptly," he said.
Cabinet-level talks — which usually serve as a forum for discussion of Seoul's aid to the impoverished North — could lead to a resumption of the regular delivery of rice and fertilizer to the Communist nation. South Korea suspended its aid after the July missile tests.
Agreement reached in six-nation talks
The move to restart the talks comes after the nuclear agreement, reached Tuesday among the two Koreas, China, Japan, Russia and the United States.
The disarmament pact requires North Korea to seal its main nuclear reactor, allow international inspectors and begin accounting for other nuclear programs within 60 days. Within that time, more talks are planned on ending the hostilities between North Korea and the U.S. and Japan.
In return, North Korea will receive 45,000 tonnes of heavy fuel oil, a modest down payment on a promised 900,000 tonnes in oil or aid of a similar value if it ultimately disarms. The promised oil is more than two-thirds of North Korea's entire oil consumption in 2004, according to the CIA Factbook.
The aid package is worth about $250 million US at current prices.
South Korean President Roh Moo-hyun and U.S. President George W. Bush agreed during a telephone conversation that "they were now at a starting point to kick-start the process of resolving the North Korea nuclear issue," Roh's office said in a statement Thursday.
The two leaders also "stressed that each country should sincerely implement" the nuclear deal, according to the statement.
South Korea's Foreign Minister Song Min-soon had similar telephone discussions with his U.S. and Chinese counterparts, and planned to talk with the Japanese and Russian foreign ministers, the Foreign Ministry said.
Both Roh and Song are on a European tour.
While the nuclear agreement marks a turnabout for the North, it still potentially faces years of trouble-filled negotiations.
No timetable was set for North Korea — which has a history of backpedalling on agreements — to declare all of its nuclear programs and ultimately dismantle them.
The two Koreas remain technically at war since the 1950-53 Korean War ended in a ceasefire, but their relations have warmed significantly since the one-and-only summit between their leaders in 2000.
© The Canadian Press, 2007