Koreas Hunker Down for Rare Talks
But Pyongyang's motivation remains a mystery; no set agenda
By Matt Cantor,  Newser User
Posted Feb 12, 2014 7:30 AM CST
North Korean chief delegate Won Tong Yon, center, walks after crossing a military demarcation line for a meeting with South Korean delegates at the border village of Panmunjom, Feb. 12, 2014.   (AP Photo/South Korean Unification Ministry)
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(Newser) – For the first time in more than seven years, high-level officials from North and South Korea are hunkered down for talks in Panmunjom today—talks called by the North amid much suspicion over its motives, Reuters reports. Both sides sent top officials to the gathering; the head of Seoul's delegation, deputy national security adviser Kim Kyu-hyun, called it "an opportunity to open a new era of the Korean peninsula," the BBC reports. Kim is the highest-ranking South Korean under current President Park Geun-hye, who took office a year ago, to meet with Northern leaders, the New York Times notes.

An expert suggests one possible reason for Pyongyang's move: If the North "comes back with an accomplishment in terms of improved South-North ties, it will mean a better atmosphere for Kim Jong Un to visit China and a justification to pursue high-level talks with the United States." The North Korean leader reportedly wants to go to China to bolster his legitimacy, Reuters notes. Among the topics under discussion were family reunions planned for next week, which the North earlier threatened to cancel—a day after the plan was established.