S Korea for talks with N Korea over joint liaison office

Seoul: South Korea is planning to hold high-level talks with North Korea to discuss the establishment of a joint liaison office in Kaesong in North Korea, government officials said on Monday.

According to a joint declaration adopted after South Korean President Moon Jae-in and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un successfully hosted the inter-Korean summit at the border village of Panmunjom in the Demilitarised Zone (DMZ) on Friday, the two Koreas agreed to set up a joint permanent liaison office, where officials from both sides would be stationed to promote inter-Korean communication and civilian exchanges, reports Yonhap news agency.

“To implement the Panmunjom Declaration, the government is reviewing holding dialogue, including high-level talks, as soon as possible,” Yonhap quoted Baik Tae-hyun, spokesman at Seoul’s unification ministry, as saying in a press briefing.

The South Korean news agency added that according to a source, the unification ministry is mulling to hold the talks in May. If the talks go smoothly, the office would likely be opened in June.

Currently, North and South Korea have their respective different liaison offices, located on either side of the border, using phones and fax machines for communication.

Kaesong, which is North Korea’s border city, also boasts of a presence of a joint industrial complex, which is considered the symbol of inter-Korean economic cooperation.

In February 2016, the industrial complex was closed by former President Park Geun-hye’s government after North Korea conducted its fourth nuclear test and launched a long-range rocket.

Experts say that if the joint liaison office is established, it is expected to prevent miscommunication from hampering inter-Korean relations and to facilitate the constant regularisation of talks between officials of two Koreas.

In 2005, the two Koreas set up a four-storey building in the industrial zone to host a joint liaison office for economic cooperation.

However, it was soon shut down following Pyongyang’s protest over sanctions imposed by Seoul to punish the former’s role in the sinking of a South Korean warship in 2010.

If set up, the new joint liaison office is likely to come up in the building. (ANI)