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The BBC's Caroline Gluck
"The two side will meet again"
 real 28k

Saturday, 22 April, 2000, 06:58 GMT 07:58 UK
Koreas plan landmark summit
Discussions in Panmunjom
The talks are aimed at ending decades of confrontation
Negotiators from North and South Korea have met to discuss plans for an unprecedented summit between the leaders of the two countries in June.

The talks took place in the village of Panmunjom on the heavily-fortified border between the two countries.

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.

Border crossing

In a rare scene in Panmunjom, several dozen North Korean officials and reporters walked across the border to meet their South Korean counterparts.

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
Before crossing the border, the North Koreans were given a written South Korean assurance for their safety, a standard operating procedure in such inter-Korean contacts.

South Korea's Foreign Minister, Lee Joung-Binn, said a summit could prove to be a turning-point for Koreans and have far-reaching implications for peace and stability in northeast Asia and the world.

South Korean President Kim Dae-Jung is due to travel to the North Korean capital, Pyongyang, to meet his counterpart, Kim Jong-Il, on 12-14 June.

Plans for a summit six years ago fell through when the North Korean leader, Kim Il Sung, died.

The BBC Correspondent in Seoul says the North has recently shown signs of emerging from its long diplomatic isolation, possibly because of its dire economic problems.

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.

President Kim Dae-Jung
Kim Dae-Jung: Pledged to improve relations
South Korea, the United States and Japan - which all have concerns about North Korea's missile production - met recently 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.

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.

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.

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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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