February 14, 2014 09:19
Senior officials from North and South Korea on Thursday agreed to continue their talks on Friday after no significant progress was achieved in their first meeting.
Unification Ministry spokesman Kim Eui-do told reporters that "additional discussions" are needed about issues that were discussed Wednesday.
Kim urged North Korea to not to link the reunions of families separated by the 1950-53 Korean War with other issues and to ensure that the reunions take place as scheduled later this month.
On Wednesday, North Korea predictably demanded that South Korea postpone annual joint military drills with the U.S. until the family reunions take place between Feb. 20-25.
However, Seoul said the schedule for the drills has already been agreed by South Korea and the U.S. and cannot be changed.
The government is cautiously optimistic that North Korea will relent, considering that it was the first to request additional talks. But if Pyongyang refuses to budge, Seoul is considering holding at least the first round of family reunions on Feb. 20-22.
Cho Han-bum of the Korea Institute of National Unification said, "North Korea does not appear willing to derail the high-level talks." Cho predicted that the North will continue its conciliatory stance for the time being because U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry is on a tour of Asia.
Meanwhile, Wednesday's talks, the first high-level contact between the two sides in seven years, took place amid tight security. North Korea had initially proposed holding them in secret and demanded that the contents of the meeting be kept under wraps from the media. Seoul did not accept the request for secret talks but agreed to restrict media access.
The talks lasted from 10:05 a.m. to 11:35 p.m. without any media briefings in between.
It was not until close to midnight that the media learned that North Korea had demanded that the upcoming military drills be postponed.
Another issue Pyongyang stressed heavily during Wednesday's talks was South Korean media's critical reporting of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un.
A government official here said, "North Korea appears to be concerned that the regime may face risks if people there are exposed to critical reports about their leader by South Korea media."
During past cross-border meeting, North and South Korean officials would exchange handshakes before parting ways, but this time the North Korean delegation apparently simply walked out.
- Copyright © Chosunilbo & Chosun.com