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In rare inter-Korean talks, North pledges ‘invaluable’ gift

SEOUL (Reuters) – The last North Korean to cross this heavily militarized border was shot by his own comrades, and barely escaped with his life.

But when a hefty man proudly sporting lapel pins with the beaming faces of late North Korean leaders Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Il led a delegation of about 20 North Korean officials over the tense border dividing the two Koreas on Tuesday, they did so to praise from both countries.

The visit – part of the first official talks between the two Koreas in two years – was in stark contrast to the past year of spiraling tensions, punctuated by the dramatic defection of a North Korean soldier in November. It was just meters away from where the diplomatic delegations sipped cups of red ginseng tea on Tuesday.

(For an interactive graphic on inter-Korean talks click tmsnrt.rs/2t8i6no)

Arriving in only Western-style business suits despite sub-zero weather and snow piled on the ground, the head of the North Korean delegation referenced the increased tensions over Pyongyang’s nuclear weapons program.

“This winter has seen more snowstorms than ever, and rivers and mountains across the country are frozen,” said Ri Son Gwon, chairman of the North’s Committee for the Peaceful Reunification of the Fatherland.

“It would not be an exaggeration to say that inter-Korean ties were even more frozen, but public yearning for improved relations was so strong that today’s precious event was brought about,” he quipped.

“We came to this meeting with the thought of giving our brethren, who have high hopes for this dialogue, invaluable results as the first present of the year,” he continued in opening remarks, as his officials opened brown paper folders.

Despite scepticism from allies in the United States and Japan, officials in South Korea hope the talks lead to more than just friendly photo ops, including substantive improvements in relations between Seoul and Pyongyang.

Just before Seoul’s delegation drove into the demilitarized zone, some 20 South Koreans were seen holding up a banner that read: “We wish the success of the high-ranking inter-Korean talks”. One man was spotted waving a flag with a unified Korean peninsula.

https://www.reuters.com/article/us-northkorea-southkorea-talks-scene/in-rare-inter-korean-talks-north-pledges-invaluable-gift-idUSKBN1EY0Q3?il=0

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January 9, 2018 - Posted by | Uncategorized

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