North Korea today accepted a South Korean offer for talks on reuniting families separated by war, but proposed separate talks on resuming lucrative tours to a scenic North Korean mountain in an apparent effort to link the two discussions. Last week, the two Koreas agreed to work toward a resumption of a jointly run factory park in North Korea, raising hopes for improved ties between the rivals. Seoul subsequently proposed Red Cross talks on restarting the reunions.
Today, a spokesman at Pyongyang's Committee for the Peaceful Reunification of Korea said the North had agreed on the Red Cross talks. He proposed meeting at the country's scenic Diamond Mountain, not at the southern side of the border village of Panmunjom as South Korea requested. The spokesman said via state media that North Korea also wants another set of talks Thursday on tours of Diamond Mountain. South Korea suspended tours to Diamond Mountain after a South Korean woman was shot dead by a North Korean border guard there in 2008. The project had provided a legitimate source of hard currency to North Korea before its suspension. "The North Korean intention is obvious. It is saying it wants to exchange the resumption of the Diamond Mountain tours with the family reunions," says a South Korean professor. (Read more North Korea stories.)