Fri, August 21, 2009
World > Asia-Pacific

DPRK lifts cross-border restrictions, signaling thaw in inter-Korean ties

2009-08-21 14:42:51 GMT2009-08-21 22:42:51 (Beijing Time)  xinhuanet

PYONGYANG, Aug. 21 (Xinhua) -- The Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) on Friday lifted traffic restrictions on its border with South Korea, which, analysts say, is the latest sign the DPRK hopes for a thaw in inter-Korean ties.

The DPRK announced it has completely normalized cross-border traffic for South Korean workers and cargo trains, lifting bans it had imposed since December, the South Korean news agency Yonhap reported Friday.

Such a measure has not yet been officially reported by DPRK media.

The DPRK made the announcement after Kim Jong Il, the country's top leader, pledged to ease the restrictions during a visit by Hyundai Group Chairwoman Hyun Jeong Eun earlier this week.

He also guaranteed the safety of South Korean tourists visiting the DPRK and promised to boost bilateral cooperation in developing a jointly run industrial park.

In the so-called "December 1 Measure" imposed in protest of Seoul's hardline border restrictions, the DPRK restricted the number of times South Korean workers could travel to an industrial park in its border town of Kaesong.

In addition to Thursday's announcement, a conciliatory gesture from the DPRK toward South Korea was also seen at the "funeral diplomacy," analysts said.

Kim Jong Il sent a condolence message after former South Korean President Kim Dae Jung died Tuesday.

"Though he passed away to our regret, the feats he performed to achieve national reconciliation and realize the desire for reunification will remain long with the nation," Kim said in the message.

The top leader also sent a special delegation to Seoul to mourn the former South Korean president.

The delegation was led by Kim Ki Nam, secretary of the Central Committee of the governing Worker's Party.

All those actions have reflected the DPRK's policy of "standing above different ideas and political views to seek national re-union," the Choson Sinbo daily, a pro-Pyongyang newspaper based in Japan, said while commenting on the delegation.

"The message which Pyongyang is sending to Seoul is meaningful," the newspaper said. "It showed the will of the DPRK to actively push forward the cooperation between the two sides under the spirits conveyed in the two joint declarations signed by the two top leaders in 2000 and 2007, and to improve inter-Korean relations and realize national re-union," the newspaper said.

The DPRK hoped that the international community would "rethink the confronting and biased policy" against it and "the South Korean government which has been taking a pragmatic policy could grab the chance to return to the orbit of national self-dependence," the newspaper said.

"It is possible to improve and develop inter-Korean relations, as long as the two sides could mutually recognize the idea and system of the other side and seek common interests under the same nationality," it added.

With the gentler gestures, analysts said, the DPRK is seeking to prompt South Korea to abide by the two declarations and restore a trend toward reconciliation.

By doing so, the DPRK also wishes to break international sanctions imposed on it after its second nuclear test and a series of missile test-fires earlier this year, they said.

The DPRK's move received a positive response from South Korea, which suggested holding talks on the re-union of families separated by the 1950-53 Korean War, which was part of the agreement reached during Hyundai chairwoman's visit to Pyongyang.

South Korea also accepted the condolence delegation of the DPRK. A beneficial interaction between the two sides will continue, analysts said.

The DPRK and South Korea, however, are still clearly divided over many issues, especially the DPRK's nuclear programs. How far the two sides could go in easing their strained ties remains to be seen, analysts say.

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