Seoul proposes working-level talks on Kaesong

July 4, 2013 at 1:22 AM
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SEOUL, July 4 (UPI) -- South Korea, responding to a North Korean invitation, Thursday proposed working-level talks on the idled Kaesong industrial complex, the government said.

"The government wants talks to be held at the truce village of Panmunjom," the Ministry of Unification said in a statement. "Seoul's stance remains consistent and centers on government authorities resolving all outstanding issues through dialogue."

South Korea's Yonhap News Agency said Seoul's response to the North's invitation was sent through the hot-line at Panmunjom, which had earlier been cut.

On Wednesday, North Korea invited South Korean businessmen to visit their factories at the inter-Korean industrial complex in the North Korean border town of Kaesong. The North was quoted as saying once the South responded to the invitation, it would take necessary measures to ensure safe passage through the demilitarized zone that separates the two Koreas.

Operations at the 10-year-old complex, the only economic link between the two Koreas, with 123 South Korean companies participating, were suspended in early April after North Korea pulled its 53,000 workers and banned the entry of South Korean representatives and supplies into the complex amid growing tensions on the Korean Peninsula. Since then, South Korea has said any talks on reopening the complex can only be at an official level.

Yonhap News said the North's invitation had stopped short of accepting the South's call for official level talks.

Tensions in the region have heightened since the North's third nuclear test in February and long-range missile firings in violation of U.N. Security Council sanctions.

Last month, the two sides held a working-level meeting to prepare for official talks to discuss Kaesong and other issues, but those talks were later called off reportedly because of disagreement over the status of their delegation leaders.

Prior to the latest development, some of the South Korean firms with facilities at Kaesong had said they want to abandon the complex and relocate their machinery equipment.

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