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Diplomacy

North Korea and South Korea resume talks on Kaesong industrial zone

North and South Korean officials have begun talks on restarting the Kaesong joint industrial zone, after Pyongyang closed it in April. The discussion marks the first senior-level meeting the countries have held in years.

Diplomats from North and South Korea are meeting to discuss reopening the jointly run Kaesong industrial zone a month after their last attempt at dialogue collapsed. The two sides are meeting in the "truce village" of Panmunjom inside the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ).

"We will focus on the agenda and try to work on building confidence and cooperation starting with small issues and try our best to channel that to bigger confidence and cooperation," South Korean chief delegate Suh Ho told reporters before the talks.

Kaesong emerged nearly a decade ago as a means toward fostering unification between the two countries. The complex, which houses 123 South Korean firms on the North side of the DMZ, created $2 billion (1.5 billion euros) a year in cross-border trade - a crucial source of hard currency for reclusive Pyongyang.

In April, North Korea shuttered the complex in retaliation against South Korean and US joint military exercises, citing the drills as a provocation. Pyongyang withdrew its 53,000 employees and cut off the official telephone lines to Seoul.

Earlier this year, North Korea threatened nuclear strikes against Seoul and Washington after the United Nations tightened sanctions against it for conducting its third nuclear test in February.

Saturday's talks come after a protocol disagreement last month resulted in both sides calling off what would have been the first senior-level meeting in years.

Since taking office in February, South Korean President Park Geun-hye has pledged to engage the North in dialogue and take steps to build confidence for better ties. However, she has also vowed not to give in to unreasonable demands.

hc/jm (Reuters, AP, dpa)