North Korean and South Korean officials met in a demilitarized village on the border Thursday, to hold talks aimed at initiating sustainable communication between the two countries, according to reports. The rare meeting is the first intergovernmental interaction since August when the two sides met to defuse a crisis that had pushed them to the brink of an armed conflict.
Held in the border village of Panmunjom, about 34 miles north of Seoul, the meeting saw the two sides ironing out a framework to resume high-level talks, although they did not arrive at a precise timeline. Both countries signed a joint agreement agreeing on details such as who would represent their respective governments and the issues that would be on the agenda.
The question of representation has caused diplomatic friction between the two sides before. In June 2013, Pyongyang and Seoul agreed to hold what would have been the first high-level dialogue in six years. However, North Korea canceled the summit a day before as it felt affronted by South Korea's nomination of a vice minister as its chief delegate.
"The overall atmosphere for a successful conclusion of these talks is really not that favorable," Cheong Seong-Chang, an analyst with the Sejong Institute think tank in Seoul, told Agence France-Presse.
Tensions between North Korea and South Korea had escalated in August after two South Korean soldiers were injured in a land mine explosion in a demilitarized zone. Seoul had accused North Korea of carrying out the attack, which the latter denied.
Yoo Ho-yeol, a professor of North Korean studies at Korea University, said, according to Yonhap News Agency: "The North will likely call on Seoul to lift its sanctions against the North and to reopen the Kumgang tour program. The South is expected to raise the issue of family reunions."
In October, the two Koreas conducted reunion of families, separated by the 1950-53 Korean War, as part of a deal signed in August. South Korea seeks to regularize the reunions while the cash-strapped North Korea has demanded that Seoul allow South Korean tour groups to its scenic Mount Kumgang resort.
Earlier in November, South Korean President Park Geun-hye said she was open to a summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un if the latter agreed to give up nuclear weapons and focus sincerely on inter-Korean ties.