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South Korea Proposes Ministerial Talks with North Korea - 2001-09-06

The South Korean Government has proposed ministerial talks with North Korea, to open later this month. The offer comes several days after the North officially announced it wanted to end a six-month freeze on official contacts.

South Korean officials said Thursday the government has requested new ministerial talks with Pyongyang to start as early as September 15th. The proposal is a response to an offer from North Korea, Sunday, to reopen the reconciliation process.

Official contacts between the two Korea's came to a halt early this year. amid tensions between Pyongyang and Seoul's ally, Washington, over the U.S. suspension of negotiations with the North.

South Korea's Unification Ministry says the offer was made by telephone at the Panmunjom truce village, on the heavily fortified frontier between the two nations. It is the only official point of contact for the two sides, which remain technically at war, even though Korean War hostilities ended almost 50 years ago.

North Korea's offer came one day before a no-confidence motion in the South Korean Parliament passed against Unification Minister Lim Dong-Won, who was said to be well liked by Pyongyang.

The vote led to the collapse of President Kim Dae-jung's ruling coalition and the resignation of his cabinet. It threatens his so-called "sunshine" policy of engagement with the North.

President Kim has made engaging the North a centerpiece of his administration. His unprecedented summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Il in Pyongyang last year led to warmer relations between the two countries. Conservative opposition members of parliament have criticized the South Korean president's policy as making too many concessions to the North.