Tuesday, 14 August, 2018

Rival Koreas agree to reunions of war-separated families

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Lance Thomas | 23 June, 2018, 01:27

South Korean government figures from May showed 132,124 citizens had registered since 1988 to be included in a lottery for reunion visits.

North and South Korea agreed Friday to hold temporary reunions of families divided by the 1950-53 Korean War as they boost reconciliation efforts amid a diplomatic push to resolve the North Korean nuclear crisis.

Each side will choose 100 people to meet at the scenic Mount Kumgang resort in North Korea from August 20 to 26, according to a statement released by the South Korean Unification Ministry. Those with mobility problems will be allowed to bring a relative to help them. The families were driven apart during the turmoil of the war.

The Red Cross organisations from the two countries will arrange reunions for about 200 selected people from both sides, they said in a joint statement after a meeting of delegations.

Following Moon's talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin in the Kremlin, officials from the two countries signed agreements on cooperation in various economic projects, energy, transport and innovative technologies.

Observers generally agree that Kim's visit to China this time is apparently meant to brief Xi on the outcome of his summit with Trump but added that he could enlist support from China ahead of talks on how fast it will have to give up its nuclear weapons program. Park Kyung-seo, South Korea's Red Cross chief, expressed hope for productive talks that could "resolve the grief of our nation".

Recent improved relations come after serious deterioration during 2016 and 2017 over the North's nuclear and missile programs. Almost 20,000 Koreans had participated in 20 rounds of face-to-face reunions held between the countries since 2000.

South Korean officials have often called for the visits to resume as a "humanitarian and human rights issue", especially since many individuals are now in their 80s and 90s. By March, 56 percent of the 131,531 South Koreans who applied to take part in reunions had died, it said. None of the past participants has had a second reunion.

The U.S. Indo-Pacific military commander told Japan's defence minister on Thursday (Jun 21) that Washington remained committed to the complete, verifiable and irreversible denuclearisation of North Korea.

In a series of tweets following the summit, Trump said that denuclearization by North Korea was already underway and Americans could "sleep well tonight".

Speaking to reporters on Wednesday, Mattis said he is unaware of any steps taken by North Korea towards dismantling its nuclear weapons programme since the Singapore summit and does not expect any in the immediate future.

The reunions - the first in three years - were promised by North Korean leader Kim Jong Un following historic meetings with President Donald Trump earlier this month and South Korean President Moon Jae-in in May.

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