North, South Koreans to discuss famine and top issues despite naval conflict
June 20, 1999
SEOUL, South Korea (CNN) -- Despite a recent clash of naval vessels, North and South Korea meet in Beijing on Monday to discuss such critical issues as famine in the North and a reunion for tens of thousands of families separated by the North-South border.
It will be the first inter-Korean governmental talks in 14 months, taking place despite Pyongyang's vow of retaliation for last week's naval clash between the two sides.
South Korea's vice-minister of unification Yang Young-shik left on Sunday with two other officials to attend the meeting scheduled for 10 a.m. Beijing time (0200 GMT) at the Kempinski Hotel, as suggested by South Korea.
Pyongyang notified Seoul on Saturday through the Red Cross office in the border village of Panmunjom that it would attend the vice-ministerial meeting, the South Korean Unification Ministry said.
Bilateral talks had come to a halt in April last year after Seoul insisted it would offer aid to North Korea only if Pyongyang committed itself to allow reunions of families separated after the 1950-53 Korean War.
Sea boundary could be on agenda
The two Koreas technically remain at war because the Korean War ended in an armed truce rather than a peace agreement.
South Korea did not rule out discussion of the disputed sea boundary issue between the two Koreas after last week's Yellow Sea naval clash in which the South sank a North Korean gunboat and heavily damaged several others.
"Any participant is free to raise any topic," said South Korea's Foreign Minister Hong Soon-young told reporters on Friday. "If Pyongyang brings up the (sea border dispute), then of course we have our position. In that case this will be a prolonged debate."
South Korea's main opposition Grand National Party attacked the minister's remarks concerning possible discussion of the sea boundary, saying President Kim Dae-jung's "sunshine policy" of engagement with the North jeopardised the safety of the nation.
The United Nations Command, which fought against Chinese-backed North Korea in the Korean War, unilaterally demarcated the Northern Limit Line (NLL) in 1953 between the two territories in the Yellow Sea.
South Korea said North Korea had passively agreed to the demarcation in a 1992 basic agreement.
Harsh words on retaliation
North Korea's official Korea Central News Agency (KCNA) on Saturday promised it would "answer 'retaliatory blow' of the enemy with retaliatory blow, an all-out war with all-out war" after Tuesday's naval gunfire exchange.
South Korea said North Korea had fired first after its vessels crossed the NLL and into Southern waters for the ninth consecutive day on Tuesday. North Korea said South Korean vessels had crossed into northern waters and fired first.
North Korean vessels refrained from entering South Korean waters for the fifth consecutive day on Sunday, with three patrol boats guarding about 11 fishing boats hauling up crabs five km (three miles) north of the NLL.
South Korea eased its military alert status to a "highly wary" level close to the normal "Defcon 4" on Saturday, but said in some areas around the NLL forces were still placed on a near "Defcon 3" combat-ready status.
Reuters contributed to this report.
North-South Korea to talk despite deadly clash
North Korea Report
|Back to the top||
© 2001 Cable News Network. All Rights Reserved.|
Terms under which this service is provided to you.
Read our privacy guidelines.