Korean talks to resume
SEOUL, South Korea (CNN) -- South Korea is to send a special envoy to North Korea in a bid to restart stalled bilateral relations.
During a simultaneous announcement by both countries Monday, North Korea said officials would discuss bilateral ties as well as the "grave situation" on the Korean Peninsula.
"The two sides will consult [on] the grave situation facing the nation and issues of mutual concern related to the inter-Korean ties," KCNA, the official North Korean news agency said.
Lim Dong-won, South Korean President Kim Dae-jung's special adviser on security and unification affairs, will travel to North Korea in the first week of April, presidential spokeswoman Park Sun-Sook said.
"We expect the talks to lay the groundwork for a resumption of stalled relations between South and North Korea," South Korean presidential spokeswoman Park Sun-sook said in Seoul.
The two sides have been divided since 1945 and are still technically at war as no armistice was signed to end the Korean war in 1953.
Relations between the nations briefly warmed after an historic summit between South Korea's Kim and North Korean leader Kim Jong Il in Pyongyang in June 2000.
That brought about a new mood of reconciliation between the two sides, but any further thawing of relations has largely stalled since then.
Park said by sending it's envoy to the North Seoul hopes to limit tensions on the Korean Peninsula and fulfill the agreements reached during the summit.
The two countries agreed to a series of exchanges, including reunions between families divided since the Korean War -- three of which have taken place since then.
Park did not specify what areas the talks will address, but issues on the table include resuming the family exchanges and restarting high-level talks, which have been stalled for four months.
In recent months, ties between North and South have also been hit by sagging U.S.-North Korean relations.
In January U.S. President George W. Bush labeled the North part of an "axis of evil", along with Iraq and Iran, saying Pyonyang was intent on acquiring or building weapons of mass destruction.
Already smarting from the "axis" comment, the communist state was seething after it was revealed in March that it had been placed on a U.S. nuclear hit list.
That provoked a spate of strong words and posturing from North Korea as well as a threat to pull out of a crucial nuclear deal with the United States.
For its part, South Korea has been pushing for a resumption of dialogue between the two foes.
South Korean President Kim Dae-jung said last week that North Korea had "no other choice" but restart talks with the United States if it was to survive politically or economically.
North Korea has so far refused U.S. offers for unconditional talks but the issue is expected to feature during North-South discussions in April.
-- CNN Seoul Bureau Chief Sohn Jie-Ae contributed to this report
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