S. Korea to send advance team to North for reunions
SEOUL, Feb. 13 (Yonhap) -- South Korea plans to send a team to the venue for scheduled reunions of separated families in North Korea this week amid growing uncertainty over the meetings, Seoul's unification minister said Thursday.
South and North Korea recently agreed to hold the reunions of families separated during the 1950-53 Korean War at Mount Kumgang, a scenic resort on the North's east coast, from Feb. 20 to 25.
During high-level inter-Korean talks on Wednesday, however, Pyongyang demanded Seoul to delay joint military exercises with the United States until after the humanitarian event, casting doubt on whether the reunions will take place as scheduled.
Vowing "utmost efforts to smoothly stage the reunions the two sides already agreed upon," Minister of Unification Ryoo Kihl-jae said the government "will send the advance team to the Mount Kumgang region within this week."
He made the comments during a meeting of the parliamentary committee on foreign affairs and unification.
Speaking on the inter-Korean talks the previous day, Ryoo once again emphasized that the humanitarian issue should not be linked to the military exercises.
"We made it clear that we cannot accept the North's request (of delaying the drills), and holding the reunions without a hitch is the first step to better inter-Korean ties," Ryoo said.
The minister also said he expects the family reunions to be held as scheduled.
Dismissing the North's claims that the annual exercises are a rehearsal for a nuclear war against it, South Korea and the U.S. have vowed to carry out the drills from Feb. 24 through April, calling them defensive in nature.
The communist country has not made official its stance since late Wednesday when the two Koreas ended their rare high-level talks without progress.
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