SEOUL, Jan. 22 (Canadian Press) — North Korea proposed Friday holding military talks with South Korea next week to discuss ways to facilitate their joint industrial park in the North, an official said.
The industrial park, located just north of the heavily fortified border, is the most prominent symbol of inter-Korean co-operation amid tensions between the rival nations, which remain in a state of war because their 1950-53 conflict ended in a truce, not a peace treaty.
The North offered to hold working-level talks in the North's border city of Kaesong on Tuesday to discuss border crossings, customs clearance, and the use of mobile phones and Internet for South Korean companies in the complex, Unification Ministry spokesman Chun Hae-sung said.
South Korea will review the proposal, Chun said.
The move came a day after the two sides concluded separate talks in Kaesong to assess their joint tour of industrial parks in China and Vietnam, undertaken in December to find ways to develop their complex in Kaesong.
More than 110 South Korean factories at Kaesong employ some 42,000 North Korean workers to make everything from electronics and watches to shoes and utensils, providing a major source of revenue for the cash-strapped North.
Pyongyang has reached out to the U.S. and South Korea in recent months in what could be an attempt to ease some of the pressure of U.N. sanctions imposed on the North after it conducted a nuclear test last year, its second to date.
The North, however, has sent conflicting signals by threatening to break off dialogue and attack South Korea in response to reports that Seoul had assembled a contingency plan to handle any unrest in the North.
Pyongyang quit international talks on ending its nuclear programs last year, but has indicated its willingness to return to disarmament negotiations if the sanctions are lifted.
South Korean Foreign Minister Yu Myung-hwan expressed hope Friday that the nuclear talks would resume around the Lunar New Year's holiday, which falls on Feb. 14, citing diplomatic efforts among the countries involved. He didn't elaborate.
South Korea has said the lifting of sanctions could be discussed at the U.N. Security Council after the North makes progress toward denuclearization.