Koreas Hold Talks to Boost Tense Relations

TEHRAN (Tasnim) - North and South Korea have held their first high-level talks in seven years, in an apparent effort to improve strained relations.

Koreas Hold Talks to Boost Tense Relations

The talks, held on Wednesday at a border village, came as South Korea and the United States prepared for another round of military drills that have angered Pyongyang.

The meeting was set up with unusual speed and great secrecy at the North's suggestion last week, the latest example of conflicting signals from Pyongyang, which abruptly cancelled an invitation for a US envoy to visit.

North Korea is expected to repeat demands for the South and the United States to scrap their military drills, but both sides have many incentives to seek a deal that could break their long stalemate, Reuters reported.

"For the North, if it comes back with an accomplishment in terms of improved South-North ties, it will mean a better atmosphere for Kim Jong-un to visit China and a justification to pursue high-level talks with the United States," Cheong Seong-chang, an expert at the Sejong Institute outside Seoul, told Reuters.

Kim is believed to be seeking a visit to China, Pyongyang's greatest ally and main benefactor, to reinforce his legitimacy as leader. Kim took power when his father died suddenly in 2010.

Seoul officials told AP that the meeting was requested by the North, which has launched a recent charm offensive after raising tensions last spring with threats to fire nuclear-tipped missiles at Seoul and Washington.

Pyongyang, which has repeatedly vowed to expand its nuclear arsenal, is trying to build nuclear-armed missiles that can reach the continental US, but most experts say the country has yet to master the technology needed to mount an atomic bomb on a missile.

In addition to demanding a halt to the military drills, North Korea was expected to demand that South Korea agree to restart a lucrative joint tourism project and increase humanitarian aid, AP reported.

South Korea, meanwhile, was looking to discuss ways to ensure that planned reunions of families separated a half-century ago in the Korean War went smoothly, Seoul's Unification Ministry said.

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