After months of unsettling tensions, North and South Korea tentatively agreed Thursday to hold talks about reopening the shared manufacturing zone where Pyongyang halted activity in April.
The North proposed the meeting to discuss the shuttered Kaesong Industrial Zone — a major symbol of cooperation between the two countries — along with other issues in a statement published by state-run media. “The venue of the talks and the date for their opening can be set to the convenience of the south side,” it said.
South Korean Unification Minister Ryoo Kihl-jae suggested a date of June 12 for the meeting.
As tensions flared on the Korean Peninsula in April, Kim Jong Un’s regime began blocking South Koreans from entering the Kaesong complex, which sits on the North’s side of the heavily fortified border and houses the operations of more than 120 South Korean companies. Pyongyang then pulled out the more than 50,000 North Koreans who work in the zone’s factories.
Daniel Pinkston, a senior analyst for the International Crisis Group covering Northeast Asia, suggest that North Korea’s key ally China, which has expressed displeasure with some of Pyongyang’s recent behavior, may not have been “as generous as the North Koreans have been expecting in terms of aid, assistance, trade and investment.”
Additionally, U.S.-South Korean military exercises have ended, and Pyongyang has toned down the frequency and intensity of its threats against the same.
The North’s statement Thursday also proposed that the potential talks cover other issues besides the Kaesong complex. Pyongyang said the talks could also include “humanitarian issues” such as “the reunion of separated families and their relatives.”