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North, South Korea Agree to New Talks

  • VOA News

North Korean Hwang Pyong-So (2L), director of the military's General Political Bureau walks with officials including Ryong-Hae (R), a top secretary of the North's ruling Workers' Party of North Korea (2R) as they leave a hotel at Incheon, Oct. 4, 2014.

North Korean Hwang Pyong-So (2L), director of the military's General Political Bureau walks with officials including Ryong-Hae (R), a top secretary of the North's ruling Workers' Party of North Korea (2R) as they leave a hotel at Incheon, Oct. 4, 2014.

North and South Korean officials have agreed to resume high level talks that have been stalled for several months.

The talks are set to begin sometime between late October and early November.

United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, who is South Korean, said Saturday that he welcomes the political dialogue between the two nations, calling it "encouraging." He repeated a previous assertion that dialogue is the only way to resolve the two nations' outstanding issues and called for "positive momentum toward a peaceful and denuclearized Korean peninsula."

The new agreement to hold talks follows a rare and sudden visit to South Korea by a delegation of three senior North Korean officials who met Saturday in Incheon with South Korean Unification Minister Ryoo Kihi-jae.

The North Korean delegation was led by Hwang Pyong So, the country's number two behind leader Kim Jong Un. Hwang is the top political officer of North Korea's 1.2-million-member army.

The other two North Korean dignitaries are secretaries of the ruling Workers' Party, Choe Ryong Hae and Kim Yang Gon.

N. Korea’s National Defense Commission Vice Chairman Hwang Pyong So, left, and N. Korea’s Workers Party secretaries, Choe Ryong Hae and Kim Yang Gon wave as their team marches into the stadium at Asian Games in Incheon, S. Korea, Oct. 4, 2014.

N. Korea’s National Defense Commission Vice Chairman Hwang Pyong So, left, and N. Korea’s Workers Party secretaries, Choe Ryong Hae and Kim Yang Gon wave as their team marches into the stadium at Asian Games in Incheon, S. Korea, Oct. 4, 2014.

"I made this trip with the hope that this occasion will be a turning point for North and South Korea relations," said Kim Yang Gon.

The surprise visit was ostensibly made to attend the Asian Games closing ceremony later Saturday.

The visit has many in the region wondering if the new talks could lead to a breakthrough in decades of tensions between North and South Korea, which remain technically at war because their 1950s-era conflict ended in a truce and without a peace treaty.

The trip comes as Kim Jong Un has been absent from public view since September 3.

Armed clashes in recent years have killed soldiers on both sides, and in 2010, civilians in the South were killed when the North bombed an island.

Some information for this report comes from AP, AFP and Reuters.

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