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Koreas Resume Dialogue

Asia: The North and South discuss family reunions after a recent impasse stalled talks.

April 05, 2002|From a Times Staff Writer

SEOUL — North Korean leader Kim Jong Il met Thursday night with a South Korean presidential envoy in Pyongyang, the highest-level talks between the estranged Koreas in more than a year.

Among the topics reportedly discussed in the North Korean capital between the reclusive Kim and South Korean envoy Lim Dong Won were the scheduling of more reunions between long-separated Korean families and the need for the North to reopen a dialogue with the United States.

Lim also delivered a letter from the South Korean president.

"Lim conveyed President Kim Dae Jung's intentions for peace and cooperation on the Korean peninsula," South Korean government spokesman Kim Hong Jae said.

The three days of discussions are scheduled to conclude later today, and the two sides are expected to issue a joint statement of their intentions regarding future meetings. According to media reports here, South Korea will donate to its impoverished neighbor 300,000 tons of rice and 200,000 tons of fertilizer in an effort to ease the food crisis in the North.

Last night's meeting marked the first time that the North Korean leader had received a South Korean envoy since September 2000. In November, the most recent round of face-to-face negotiations between officials from the two nations ended in a diplomatic stalemate. Relations further deteriorated this year after President Bush characterized North Korea as part of an "axis of evil."

Also on Thursday, North Korea issued a strong statement through the official newspaper, Rodong Shinmun, blaming U.S. "imperialist aggression" for the current impasse. However, the North Koreans said they would continue discussions with a U.S.-led consortium that is building two light-water nuclear reactors in the North to help the country with its critical power shortage.

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