North and South Korea to meet next week

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Saturday, May 14, 2005

Choseon (North Korea)
Hanguk (South Korea)

Meetings are scheduled for Monday and Tuesday in Kaesong, North Korea, between vice-ministers of South and North Korea. The talks are the result of telephone messages between the two countries on Saturday and are the first official talks between the countries in 10 months.

The initial element in the discussions is a humanitarian aid request for 500,000 tons of fertilizer. South Korea's government has indicated it can supply this. Annual requests for fertilizer run from 200,000 to 300,000 tons.

South Korea has also indicated they can use the meeting to discuss nuclear issues and the resumption of multi-party talks. The U.S. has also met with North Korea's United Nations ambassador to discuss resumption of the six-party talks.

Relations between the two countries had been warming, but high level meetings were cut off when it became known South Korea had airlifted 460 North Korea refugees from Vietnam in 2004. Informal connections began to resume with meetings last month to discuss how North Korea could handle an outbreak of bird flu.

The two Koreas are technically still at war, but under a cease fire agreement.