|South Korean Unification Minister Chung Dong-young, right, shakes hands with Kwon Ho Ung, the head of North Korean delegation during their high-level meeting in Seoul|
After three days of talks, senior North and South Korean delegates have failed to agree on a date for renewed multi-national nuclear weapons talks. But they restated their commitment to a peaceful, diplomatic solution to the issue, and announced a number of new North-South cooperation initiatives.
North Korean delegate Kwan Ho Ung said the two Koreas agree that the nuclear weapons issue should be solved diplomatically. Mr. Kwan said the past three days of high-level inter-Korean talks hosted by Seoul have reaffirmed the two countries' commitment to peaceful dialogue on the issue.
But the two sides failed to agree on a specific date for North Korea to end its year-long boycott of multinational talks aimed at ending its nuclear weapons programs.
South Korea had pressed the North to return to the negotiations in July. In Pyongyang last week, North Korean leader Kim Jong Il told South Korean Unification Minister Chung Dong-young that the North might return to the talks as early as next month, if the United States showed Pyongyang respect.
Assistant Secretary of State Christopher Hill, the top U.S. delegate to the talks, says Washington will deal with all parties - Russia, China, Japan and the two Koreas - in a spirit of respect and equality.
Despite the North's continued refusal to commit to the multi-lateral talks, Unification Minister Chung, the host of the talks, says Seoul agreed to provide an unspecified amount of food aid to Pyongyang. On Wednesday, Washington agreed to donate 50,000 tons of food aid to the North.
Mr. Chung said the two sides also agreed on several practical points. Mr. Chung said the North and South agreed to hold more high-level meetings later in the year, including high-level military discussions at North Korea's Baekdu Mountain at a date to be named later.
The two sides said economic cooperation talks are to be scheduled for next month, and Red Cross meetings are to be held in August.
North Korea also agreed to allow separated families to hold brief reunions in August at the North's Kumgang Mountain resort. Mr. Chung said a separate pilot program will be launched to allow increased contact among members of separated families. He said some separated families will be allowed to make contact via a videoconference link.
Earlier Thursday, the North Korean delegation met with President Roh Moo-hyun at his official residence here in Seoul. Mr. Roh sent a verbal message to North Korean leader Kim that the issue of Pyongyang's nuclear weapons capabilities should be resolved as soon as possible.
The North Korean delegates are scheduled to return to Pyongyang Friday.