South Korea today proposed a time and place to meet with North Korea, following an agreement the nations reached last week to resume talks. The meeting is projected to take place on Feb. 11 in the Demilitarized Zone that separates the two nations.
Relations between the two Koreas have been especially rocky in recent months, with threats and military exercises on both sides of the border. Decades-old differences intensified markedly in March 2010 with the sinking of the South Korean naval ship Cheonan.
South Korea, backed by an international investigation, blamed North Korea for torpedoing the ship and killing 46 sailors. North Korea denies the charge.
The deadly shelling last fall of South Korea's Yeonpyeong Island that killed two South Korean marines and two civilians added fuel to the fire. South Korea cut off all dialogue with the North. Pyongyang repeatedly threatened war. Seoul promised retaliation.
But the North has made moves of late to reopen negotiations, and the South, describing itself as wary, has consented to try anew.
South Korea's staunchest ally, the U.S., sent a high-ranking diplomat to Seoul as talks approached, to demonstrate solidarity and caution North Korea against obstruction.
They are not going to achieve their objectives through intimidation and through coercion, Deputy Secretary of State James Steinberg told reporters today, after holding talks with South Korean Foreign Minister Kim Sung-hwan. And that, on the contrary, all they will do is deepen their isolation and lead to even more effective implementation of the measures that we have adopted in response to previous provocations.
Steinberg said U.S.-South Korean relations were as strong as ever and that if the North wanted to advance to a more peaceful and productive relationship with the South they will need to show sincere moves away from the path of provocation and towards meaningful and sincere dialogues.
Steinberg said the recent summit between President Obama and President Hu of China sends a clear message to Pyongyang that China, North Korea's strongest ally, also wants to see relations improve on the peninsula.
China understands the importance of moving forward initially with the North-South dialogue, that rebuilding trust here in South Korea is a critical first step towards being able to move forward to more a broad-base dialogue, Steinberg said.