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Koreas' Kaesong Deal Latest Sign of Easing Tensions

  • VOA News

South Korean vehicles leave for South and North Korea's joint Kaesong Industrial Complex near the border village of Panmunjom, July 2013 file photo.

South Korean vehicles leave for South and North Korea's joint Kaesong Industrial Complex near the border village of Panmunjom, July 2013 file photo.

The agreement between North and South Korea to re-open a stalled joint factory complex is the latest in a series of moves that have eased tensions between the two longtime rivals.

North-South relations reached their lowest point in years following Pyongyang's third nuclear test in February. At the height of the crisis, the North was issuing near daily threats of nuclear war against the South and the United States.

One of the highest profile casualties of the deterioration in relations was the the Kaesong industrial complex, which before its closure in April had served as one of the few areas of cooperation between the two Koreas.

Months of slow-moving talks aimed at re-opening the complex finally paid off Wednesday, when Seoul announced that a deal had been reached to restart operations there on a trial basis beginning next week.

Another area of cross-border cooperation that appears to be close to resuming are the meetings between families separated by the 1950-1953 Korean War. The reunions were suspended three years ago after North Korea shelled a South Korean border island.

But under a deal reached last month, about 100 people on each side will attend a reunion from September 25-30 at the North's scenic Mount Kumgang resort village.

North Korea has also proposed talks on resuming South Korean visits to Mount Kumgang that were called off by Seoul in 2008 following the fatal shooting of a South Korean woman by a North Korean soldier.

Seoul says it is rejecting Pyongyang's attempts to link the resumption of the family reunions with the restart of the resort tours, which, like the Kaesong factory, are an important source of cash for the impoverished North.

So far, Seoul has agreed to discuss restarting the tours, but it has delayed the date for talks to begin.

However, there have been no signs of progress on convincing North Korea to abandon its nuclear weapons program - one of the main issues of contention between the two Koreas.

North Korea has recently said it is ready to revive long-stalled six-party nuclear talks, but it has also announced that it will never give up its nuclear weapons as required under United Nations Security Council resolutions.
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