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Koreas Agree to Reopen Talks

March 25, 2002

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) _ South and North Korea have agreed to resume dialogue and exchange special envoys, a presidential official said Monday, moving to ease tensions in one of the world’s most militarized regions.

The two Koreas will simultaneously announce the agreement around 10 a.m. (8 p.m. EST Sunday), said the official.

The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, declined to disclose details. But the local JoongAng Ilbo newspaper said the two sides will begins talking in in April and exchange special envoys shortly thereafter.

The agreement was reached after a series of secret talks between the two governments at the North’s Diamond Mountain resort and third countries, officials said. The mountain is a tourist attraction that has been open to South Koreans since 1998.

Relations between the two Koreas warmed significantly after South Korean President Kim Dae-jung met North Korean leader Kim Jong Il in the North’s capital in 2000.

Kim Dae-jung won that year’s Nobel Peace Price for his pro-democracy records and efforts to reconcile with the communist North. But inter-Korean exchanges now remain frozen amid tension between the United States and North Korea.

U.S.-North Korea relations deteriorated after President Bush labeled North Korea as part of ``an axis of evil″ along with Iran and Iraq in January.

The national news agency Yonhap said Lim Dong-won, a special presidential adviser for diplomacy and national security, left for North Korea Monday as a special envoy.

YTN, a news cable network, quoting a presidential source it did not identify, said North Korea’s ceremonial head of state, Kim Yong Nam, is likely to attend the opening ceremony and match of this year’s soccer World Cup that opens in Seoul on May 31.

The Koreas were divided in 1945.

Update hourly