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Progress Seen in Korea Talks - 2001-09-17

South Korean officials report they are making progress in reconciliation talks with their Northern counterparts aimed at ending half a century of bitter division in the Korean Peninsula. But so far the two sides remain divided on all key issues.

A spokesman for South Korea's Unification Ministry, J.R. Kim, says the two sides are narrowing the gaps on several issues including flood control, tourism and athletic exchanges.

Mr. Kim says the two sides will hold more brief reunions of families split for decades by the divisions on the Korean peninsula. He adds that diplomats are still at work on getting North Korea to keep a promise to restore a rail link between the two countries. "The two sides have closed gaps considerably, on this issue and they are still discussing the issues," he said.

There was no progress reported on some other, apparently more difficult issues, like getting North Korean leader Kim Jong-il to make a visit to South Korea - something he promised to do during a historic inter-Korean summit meeting last year in Pyongyang.

There was no comment either on a South Korean proposal to issue a joint statement condemning terrorism in the wake of the devastating attacks on the United States. The idea is controversial, in part, because Washington has put North Korea on its list of nations that sponsor terrorism.

Most of the topics under discussion here in Seoul were part of a series of confidence-building measures agreed to at last year's Korean summit. But progress and regular contacts between the Koreas have been stalled since March, when relations deteriorated between Pyongyang and South Korea's staunchest ally, the United States.

The four days of talks meetings are scheduled to finish Tuesday morning with a "joint press statement," rather than the diplomatically more significant "joint statement."