(NKnews.org 13 February 2014) North and South Korea will return to high-level talks on Friday to continue discussions on the subject of inter-Korean family reunions and looming U.S. and South Korean joint military drills.
Friday’s meeting follows lengthy inter-Korean negotiations held at Pyongyang’s request on Wednesday that failed to result in any tangible agreement between the two sides.
At Wednesday’s talks North Korea communicated to South Korea that forthcoming Foal Eagle and Key Resolve military drills should be cancelled or postponed, so at they do not overlap planned family reunions between February 20 to 25.
But on Thursday South Korea rejected the request, with South Korea’s Unification Minister Ryoo Kihl-jae telling parliament: “As far as we’re concerned, it’s impossible.”
While Reuters reported that U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said Thursday that North Korea should not link forthcoming military drills with the issue of family reunions, one North Korea expert Leonid Petrov told NK News he was not optimistic about progress at Friday’s talks.
“If the South Koreans wanted to reopen Geumgangsan Mt. Resort they would have done so long time ago. The North Koreans know that and deliberately insist that family reunions should take place there. The timing for proposed family reunions is also ominous, given the joint ROK-US military drills in the area are scheduled precisely on the same day.”
Kerry also said on Thursday that the military exercises with South Korea later this month will be the same as those conducted in previous years.