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Tuesday, 18 September, 2001, 07:17 GMT 08:17 UK
Koreas agree to family reunions
North and South Korean delegates
The two sides have agreed to resume family reunions
Government ministers from North and South Korea have agreed to resume reunions next month of families separated since the Korean War in the 1950s.

In a joint statement issued after four days of talks in Seoul, the two sides said the family reunions would take place in each capital on 16-18 October.

South Korean workers and soldiers work to reconnect the inter-Korean railway
A North-South rail link now seems likely to go ahead
The ministers also agreed to hold further discussions on implementing reconciliation projects, including stepping up work on a cross-border railway.

The meeting was the highest-level contact between the two sides since North Korea suspended ties in March, amid rising tension with the United States, the South's key ally.

Our correspondent in Seoul, Caroline Gluck, says there will be relief that the talks - an attempt to give new impetus to the inter-Korean peace process begun last June - have ended in firm agreements.

But there will also be frustration that there is still no permanent solution allowing divided families to meet each other or write to each other.

Local media reports said next month's reunions would involve about 100 people from each side.

Reunions

The North Korean side also pledged to step up work on its side of the border to reconnect a railway linking the two countries.

Contacts timetable
4 Oct: Talks on improving access to Mt Kumgang in the North
16-18 Oct: Family reunions in Seoul and Pyongyang
23-26 Oct: Economic co-operation talks
28-31 Oct: Ministerial meetings in Pyongyang
Oct-Nov: Taekwondo martial arts exchanges
Nov: Surveys for anti-flood scheme
And the two sides set dates for reciprocal sports exchanges, and to begin studies for a joint flood control project on the cross-border Imjin river.

Ministers from North and South Korea, which are technically still at war, will hold more talks in the North Korean capital, Pyongyang from 28-31 October.

But there appeared to be no progress on a South Korean proposal for a joint anti-terrorism statement, although both countries have condemned last Tuesday's terrorist attacks in the US.

Aid request

Seoul's YTN television network reported that the North Korean delegates used the occasion of a meeting with South Korean President Kim Dae-jung to ask for more food aid.

North Korea has been suffering from severe food shortages for at least five years.

Pyongyang has also repeated requests made last December that the South supply it with energy.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Emil Petrie
"The two countries are technically still at war"
The BBC's Caroline Gluck in Seoul
"There'll be huge relief here in South Korea"
See also:

18 Sep 01 | Asia-Pacific
Joint statement in detail
04 Sep 01 | Asia-Pacific
China steps into Korean debate
01 Sep 01 | From Our Own Correspondent
Life in the secret state
06 Jun 01 | Asia-Pacific
S Korea calls for new summit
08 Mar 01 | Asia-Pacific
Seoul's fears over Bush
08 Mar 01 | Asia-Pacific
Bush rules out North Korea talks
22 Feb 01 | Asia-Pacific
N Korea threatens end to missile deal
13 Oct 00 | Asia-Pacific
Kim Dae-jung: Korean peacemaker
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