North Korean officials have returned to the inter-Korean liaison office, according to a Unification Ministry official on Monday, and things appear to be back to business as usual just days after Pyongyang’s abrupt announcement of the withdrawal of all its staff.
“The North Koreans said that they came down (to the liaison office) for the shift as usual,” the official said.
He added that the North expressed unchanged commitment to run the office in accordance with the agreement signed by the leaders of two Koreas during their summit at Panmunjeom in April last year.
Earlier on Monday, around 40 South Korean officials crossed the western land border on their way to the liaison office in the North’s border town of Kaesong although North Korea vacated the office based on instructions from a superior authority on Friday.
“The South and North Korean liaison representatives held a meeting in the morning and (the office) will continue to operate as usual,” the Unification Ministry official said.
Four to five North Korean working-level officials were working at the office Monday, falling short of the ordinary level of some 10 officials before last week’s abrupt announcement of the withdrawal.
The office was set up in September 2018 as a regular channel of communication between the two sides in order to facilitate close consultation between the authorities.
The Unification Ministry plans to discuss pending issues with North Korea regarding inter-Korean projects such as video reunions of families separated by the 1950-53 Korean War, through the liaison office as soon as its internal discussions are completed.
Following the news, South Korea’s military also voiced hope that the return of North Korean staff will help facilitate the enforcement of a bilateral military accord aimed at reducing tensions and building trust.
Concerns mounted last week on a gloomy outlook for the resumption of stalled talks between the US and North Korea following Pyongyang’s surprise move that came a week after Vice Foreign Minister Choe Son-hui threatened to pull out of nuclear negotiations with Washington.
Analysts said that North Korea stepped up pressure on Seoul to play a bigger role in persuading the US to move forward the stalled denuclearization talks,
In an apparent move to break the stalemate, US President Donald Trump said that he rescinded North Korea-related sanctions that the US Treasury Department planned on imposing.
“It was announced today by the US Treasury that additional large-scale Sanctions would be added to those already existing Sanctions on North Korea,” Trump tweeted Friday. “I have today ordered the withdrawal of those additional Sanctions!”
A second summit between Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un in February in Hanoi ended without an agreement, reportedly after the US refused North Korean demands for sanctions relief.
By Park Han-na (firstname.lastname@example.org)