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The BBC's Adam Brookes
"Reconciliation will be slow in coming"
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South Korean journalist Hyun-Sung Khang
South Koreans "excited about the news"
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Monday, 10 April, 2000, 07:24 GMT 08:24 UK
Koreas to hold first summit
soldiers patrol border
South Korean soldiers patrol the border
North and South Korea have announced they are to hold their first summit since the peninsula was divided in 1945.

South Korean President Kim Dae-Jung will travel to the North Korean capital, Pyongyang, to meet his counterpart, Kim Jong-Il, on 12-14 June, the two nations said in a rare simultaneous announcement.

President Kim Dae-Jung
Kim Dae-Jung: Pledged to improve relations

The Cold War rivals are technically still at war after their bitter three-year conflict in the 1950s ended in a truce.

Their last high-level talks took place nine years ago.

The announcement comes just days before general elections are due to be held in South Korea. South Korea's opposition Grand National Party said in a statement: "No regime in history has turned to such a blunt and shameless trick to win an election."

South Korean stocks rose more than 4% following the news.

Missile production

Former US President Jimmy Carter held talks in North Korea in 1994 with leader Kim il Sung, who proposed an inter-Korean summit. But the plans collapsed when President Kim died suddenly of a heart attack.

South Korea, the United States and Japan - which all have concerns about North Korea's missile production - met last month to try to co-ordinate their policy towards secretive Stalinist state.

It is believed that Pyongyang is working with Iraq to build a new ballistic missile plant in Sudan.

In recent months, the reclusive state has begun to show unprecedented signs of emerging from its diplomatic isolation, holding a series of high-level talks with the US and Japan.

Chung Ju-Yung shipped 500 cattle north as a goodwill gesture
Hyundai's founder shipped cattle to starving North Korea in 1998
The country is facing serious shortages of food and fuel - and as a result needs the support of other countries more than ever.

A US congressional report has estimated that up to two million North Koreans may have died of starvation and related diseases since 1995.

The South Korean news agency said the agreement came during talks between senior government officials from both sides and that preparatory meetings were taking place this month.

Sunshine success

South Korean Culture Minister Park Jie-Won said the announcement was proof of the success of the South's policy of trying to engage North Korea through business and other contacts.

Key events
15 Aug 1945: Korean peninsula divided
25 June 1950: Korean War starts
27 July 1953: Armistice ends Korean War
4 July 1972: Agreement on peaceful reunification
4 Sept 1990: PMs hold first talks
25 Feb 1998: S Korean president proposes inter-Korea summit
18 April 1999: First high-level talks collapse
17 March 2000: Secret talks start in China on inter-Korea summit
President Kim Dae-Jung has long espoused a "sunshine policy", aimed at constructively engaging the North to ease tensions on the peninsular.

However, tension has remained high on the contested sea border between the two. In June last year, rival naval vessels exchanged fire and at least one North Korean patrol boat was sunk.

The BBC's Caroline Gluck says there are many difficult issues that need to be resolved between the two sides, but the breakthrough is seen as a historic chance to end one of the world's remaining legacies of the Cold War.

The United States, China and Japan have welcomed the announcement. Japanese Foreign Minister Yohei Kono said the talks, if they happened, would be epoch-making.

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See also:

10 Apr 00 | Asia-Pacific
Analysis: Korea summit raises hopes
15 Dec 97 | Korean elections 97
South Korea: A political history
13 Sep 99 | Asia-Pacific
Analysis: The trouble with North Korea
04 Apr 00 | Asia-Pacific
N Korea seeks closer ties with Japan
09 Sep 98 | Korea at 50
Where famine stalks the land
30 Mar 00 | Asia-Pacific
Trilateral talks on North Korea
09 Sep 98 | Korea at 50
North Korea: a political history
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