A high level North Korean delegation has made an unprecedented call on South Korean President Roh Moo-hyun in Seoul. The meeting, one of a series of high-profile events this week, comes as the Northerners seek Southern support in the ongoing negotiations over the North's nuclear programs.
Kim Ki Nam, a high-ranking official of North Korea's communist party, brought South Korean President Roh Moo-hyun a message of goodwill Wednesday from North Korean leader Kim Jong Il. Afterwards, the nominal enemies held a series of meetings at the Blue House presidential complex, followed by lunch.
President Roh told the visitors that the two Koreas should work together to resolve the dispute over the North's nuclear programs.
He also praised the North Korean delegation for visiting South Korea's National Cemetery and honoring the soldiers who died during the Korean War. North Korea invaded the South in 1950, and the two are still technically at war after the conflict ended in stalemate in 1953.
President Roh says the visit, the first public display by Northern officials of sympathy for the South's war dead, was a powerful gesture and will be the basis for stronger ties in the future.
Wednesday's unprecedented visit was the final stop by the North Koreans in a very public goodwill tour through the South Korean capital.
The group arrived Sunday and started the visit with the trip to the cemetery. It later joined Southerners in celebrations marking 60 years since the end of Japanese control of the Korean Peninsula. On Tuesday, the Northerners paid a visit to the South Korean parliament.
Both sides say the visit has helped ease tensions between their countries. But analysts here say North Korea's show of friendship and respect is about more than just building trust.
The public campaign comes two weeks before six-party talks on North Korea's nuclear programs resume in Beijing. Delegates have said that the talks stalled over U.S. demands that North Korea give up all nuclear programs, including non-military projects.
North Korea insists on retaining the right to a peacetime nuclear energy program, and Seoul has recently come out in favor of Pyongyang's position.
Cho Nam Hyun, a spokesman for the Free Citizens Alliance of Korea, is a vocal critic of Seoul's new policy. He says Pyongyang's charm offensive is meant to lock in South Korean support and drive a wedge between Seoul and Washington - because the North has nowhere else to turn.
Mr. Cho says South Korea is Pyongyang's only ally in the six-party talks.
The other parties are China, Russia, Japan and the United States.
South Korean Foreign Minister Ban Ki Moon announced Wednesday that he will fly to Washington later this week to discuss the nuclear negotiations.
Mr. Ban denied reports of any disagreement between Seoul and Washington. But he said South Korea believes Pyongyang should have the right to peaceful nuclear energy programs in the future.