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Dialogue Resumes Between 2 Koreas - 2002-03-25

A South Korean emissary will go to North Korea next week to discuss easing tensions on the divided Korean Peninsula. The trip marks the resumption of a dialogue on improving bilateral relations. In a joint statement issued Monday, North and South Korea announced they would restart official talks that stalled last year after President Bush took office and said he needed to examine Washington's contacts with Pyongyang.

South Korean Presidential spokeswoman Park Sun-sook said Monday a special presidential advisor will visit the North in the first week of April to discuss family reunions and ways to get talks between the two sides moving again. She says that the two Koreas have agreed that President Kim Dae-jung's special envoy will visit Pyongyang, based on Seoul's request. She adds that Seoul hopes that this will be an opportunity to open up relations.

North Korea's state-run Korean Central News Agency confirmed the visit Monday and said the two sides will discuss the grave situation facing their nations.

In Washington, the State Department welcomed the latest developments and said it supports continued dialogue between North and South Korea. Last January President Bush branded North Korea as part of an axis of evil, along with Iran and Iraq, accusing Pyongyang of trying to develop weapons of mass destruction.

The two Koreas were divided in 1945 and share the world's most heavily armed border. In June of 2000, they held an unprecedented inter-Korean summit, which has so far failed to bring the two sides much closer.