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Tuesday, 9 April, 2002, 07:13 GMT 08:13 UK
Allies welcome N Korea accord
S Korean Deputy Foreign Minister Lee Tae-sik, left, Japan's Asian and Oceanian Affairs Bureau chief Hitoshi Tanaka, centre, and US Assistant Secretary of State for E Asia and Pacific James Kelly
South Korea, Japan and the US try to co-ordinate policy
Key allies of South Korea have welcomed last week's agreement to resume contacts across the divided peninsular.

In Seoul's first chance to build on the breakthrough, representatives from South Korea, Japan and the US met in Tokyo on Tuesday.

Korean accord
Resumption of family reunions
Talks on economic co-operation
Work on cross-border railway
The three nations have met periodically since 1999 to try to find a common approach to dealing with prickly Pyongyang.

"They welcomed recent developments with regard to dialogue with North Korea and reconfirmed the importance of engaging North Korea in the international community through dialogue," the three countries said in a joint statement after the talks.

One item believed to have been discussed was a possible visit to Pyongyang by a US envoy.

North Korea hinted last week it was ready to resume a dialogue with the US, suspended since President George W Bush instigated a harder-line approach to relations.

Caution

South Korean President Kim Dae-jung has already called last week's agreement to resume contacts with North Korea a "big success", but has accepted that many people are concerned whether the agreement will hold.

South Korean envoy Lim Dong-won (l) and North Korean President Kim Jong-il (r)
The two Koreas held their first talks for months last week

President Kim's envoy, Lim Dong-won, was told of North Korea's decision to resume dialogue during a meeting with reclusive leader Kim Jong-il.

"Judging by the agreements themselves, the envoy's visit proved a big success," chief presidential spokesperson Park Sun-sook quoted Kim Dae-jung as saying on Monday.

He called the agreement "a fortunate event for peace on the Korean peninsular", especially given South Korea's role as co-host in football's upcoming World Cup.

But Kim Dae-jung appeared to damp down any exaggerated hopes about the breakthrough.

"It is indeed a fact that many of our people are worried whether this agreement will be implemented," he was quoted as saying.

The diplomatic mission to the Communist North ended on Saturday with a joint statement in which the two Koreas pledged to fully revive their rapprochement process, begun after a historic summit two years ago.

Envoy Lim Dong-won said on his return that Kim Jong-il was also ready to resume talks with the United States and Japan.

A White House official said the US was reserving judgement until it had heard directly from North Korea.

Fresh hope

Last week's meetings were the first public talks between the two Koreas since November.

North Korea suspended relations with the South, angered by what it saw as the hard-line policy of the US, a close ally of Seoul.

In January, President Bush said North Korea was part of an axis of evil which was developing weapons of mass destruction.

The accord announced on Saturday also includes the resumption of family reunions, and talks on tourism and economic co-operation.

It also pledged that the two Koreas would resume work on a cross-border railway and roads, including new links along the east coast.

South Korea's official news agency said on Monday that preparations had begun for the possible visit to North Korea later this month of 100 South Koreans with family there.

The reunions were likely to take place at the northern resort of Mount Kumgang, possibly on 28 April, the agency said.

Last week's agreement has given fresh hope to millions of families on both sides of the border that they might one day be reunited with loved-ones they have not seen for more than 50 years, since the Korean War.

There have only been three limited exchanges between elderly relatives since the landmark summit between the two Korean leaders in Seoul in June 2000.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Caroline Gluck
"South Korea regards the family reunions as a high priority"
See also:

03 Apr 02 | Asia-Pacific
US grants N Korea nuclear funds
28 Mar 02 | Asia-Pacific
N Korea pressed to resume dialogue
29 Mar 02 | Asia-Pacific
North Korea calls off Japan talks
26 Mar 02 | Asia-Pacific
North Korea gears up for festivities
01 Feb 02 | Asia-Pacific
N Korea hits back at US
26 Jun 01 | Asia-Pacific
China's North Koreans in hiding
05 Apr 02 | Asia-Pacific
Korean exchange prompts talk of progress
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