South Korean officials held rare talks Thursday in North Korea on the fate of a joint industrial complex amid rising tensions over Pyongyang's recent nuclear test and the likelihood of new UN sanctions against the communist state.
South Korea also was expected to demand the release of one of its citizens detained at the complex since late March for allegedly denouncing the North's political system. Pyongyang has rejected Seoul's repeated requests for his release, and details of his status remained unclear.
The talks at the factory park in the North Korean border town of Kaesong are only the second meeting between civilian officials from the two sides in more than a year, a reflection of the deeply frayed relations and mistrust between the nations struggling to push ahead reconciliation efforts. The South Korean Unification Ministry said the talks had begun, but did not immediately give any further details.
Bilateral relations worsened after a pro-U.S., conservative government took office in Seoul last year, advocating a tougher policy on the North. In retaliation, the reclusive regime cut off ties, halted all major joint projects except the Kaesong complex and significantly restricted border traffic. The North's second nuclear test blast on May 25 further damaged ties.