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PYONGYANG - The Democratic People"s Republic of Korea and South Korea will be holding ministerial-level talks, their first in two years, at the truce village of Panmunjom on Tuesday, sending an encouraging signal of detente for inter-Korean relations.
While the participation by the DPRK of the upcoming Pyeongchang Winter Olympics is on the agenda, issues such as the reunion of separated families and humanitarian aid could be discussed in the one-day meeting at the Peace House of Panmunjom, on the South Korean side.
Each side will be represented by a five-member delegation specializing in inter-Korean issues. The DPRK delegation will be led by Ri Son-gwon, chairman of the Committee for the Peaceful Reunification of the Fatherland, while Unification Minister Cho Myoung-gyon will lead the South Korean delegation.
Officials in charge of Olympics and sports from both sides also will be joining the talks.
In the past, the two sides have organized regular reunions for separated families. These are highly emotional occasions for all Koreans who were separated by the 1950-53 Korean War, who are today living on both sides of the demarcation line known as the 38th Parallel North.
The DPRK always condemns the highly militarized line separating the peninsula as a national shame and a symbol of a split and unwanted confrontation of the two Koreas "created" by the United States, which has led to tens of thousands of Koreans forcibly separated from their families on both sides of the military line.
The two sides suspended family reunions for years due to rising tensions. After South Korean President Moon Jae-in assumed office last year, he proposed the resumption of the reunions. Moon"s public support rate also soared to above 70 percent after he decided to hold the talks.
The United Nations Security Council has imposed a raft of sanctions on the DPRK to curb its missile and nuclear programs.
Pyongyang says the sanctions have not only hit its economic activities and overseas trade hard, but also severely affected the country"s citizens" livelihoods.
The DPRK also urged the United Nations to weigh and consider the damages to the country"s humanitarian situation caused by the sanctions.
Last year, South Korea offered to send delegates to the DPRK to observe its humanitarian needs and discuss possible aid, but the offer was rejected by Pyongyang over security reasons.
China has welcomed the move, applauding all efforts to reduce tensions and create a more peaceful atmosphere on the peninsula, which could pave the way for future diplomatic talks on the nuclear issue on the Korean Peninsula.
The United States remains skeptical, but will not openly block Seoul from reaching out to Pyongyang, as clearly shown by the decision to postpone the US-South Korean joint military drills during the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics.
On Monday, Seoul"s Foreign Ministry said South Korea"s top nuclear envoy will visit the United States this week to discuss the peninsula"s nuclear issue.
Lee Do-hoon, special representative for the peninsula"s peace and security affairs, will visit Washington from Wednesday to Friday.
Lee will meet with his US counterpart Joseph Yun, a chief negotiator at the six-party talks for a denuclearized peninsula.