Koreas open li­ai­son of­fice to help NorthSouth re­la­tions

The Guardian - - WORLD -

North and South Korea have opened a li­ai­son of­fice on the North’s side of their heav­ily mil­i­tarised bor­der, set­ting up a per­ma­nent chan­nel of com­mu­ni­ca­tion as part of a flurry of ef­forts to end their decades-old ri­valry.

Steps by North and South Korea to im­prove their re­la­tions are run­ning par­al­lel to ef­forts by the US and its al­lies to press North Korea to give up its nu­clear weapons and bal­lis­tic mis­sile pro­grammes.

The open­ing of the joint li­ai­son of­fice at Kaesong, just inside the North Korean side of the bor­der, comes days be­fore the North Korean leader, Kim Jong-un, and South Korea’s pres­i­dent, Moon Jae-in, are due to hold their third meet­ing this year.

“The two sides are now able to take a large step to­ward peace, pros­per­ity and uni­fi­ca­tion of the Korean penin­sula by quickly and frankly dis­cussing is­sues aris­ing from in­ter-Korean re­la­tions,” said Ri Son-gwon, the head of North Korea’s del­e­ga­tion at the open­ing cer­e­mony.

The two Koreas pre­vi­ously com­mu­ni­cated by fax and spe­cial tele­phone lines, which were of­ten sev­ered when their re­la­tions took a turn for the worse. Now they would be able to “di­rectly dis­cuss is­sues 24 hours, 365 days”, South Korea’s uni­fi­ca­tion min­is­ter, Cho My­oung-gyon, said at the cer­e­mony.

The of­fice will be staffed by up to 20 peo­ple from each side, with the South Kore­ans on the sec­ond floor and the North Kore­ans on the fourth floor of the four-storey build­ing.

Vice-min­is­ter-level of­fi­cials would head their teams at the of­fice and would at­tend weekly meet­ings, South Korea’s uni­fi­ca­tion min­istry said.

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