AUGUST 26 2015 09:28h

South Korea open to possible lifting sanctions on North

South Korea downgrades military alert at border




South Korea said Wednesday it could resume suspended talks with North Korea, including the lifting of economic sanctions, as tensions ease this week.

"I believe that's an issue that can be fully discussed," said Jeong Joon Hee, a spokesman for the Unification Ministry, "if North Korea brings it to the table.

"It is premature to talk about when and at which level [such a meeting] will be held."

North Korea had raised the issue of the sanctions during three days of high-level negotiations at the weekend, the South's Yonhap News Agency reported earlier.

The talks were called to defuse recent tensions, first sparked when a landmine exploded in the demilitarized zone on August 4, causing two South Korean soldiers on patrol to lose their legs.

Seoul blamed the incident on Pyeongyang, and switched on its propaganda speakers to broadcast messages across the border for the first time in 11 years in retaliation.

The two sides then exchanged of dozens of artillery shells across the border on August 20.

The talks in the border village of Panmunjom produced a deal early Tuesday, under which Pyongyang expressed carefully worded "regret" over the landmine incident. It also agreed to stand down from its declared state of "quasi-war," while the South turned off its loudspeakers.

The South's representatives focused on the landmine, while their counterparts from the North were keen to discuss wider future relations, unnamed government insiders were quoted as saying by Yonhap this week.

Seoul's sanctions have been in place since Pyongyang sank the military corvette Cheonan in 2010, killing 46 South Korean troops.

South Korea also stopped tours to a mountain resort in the North, formerly a source of hard currency for the regime, since one of its tourists was shot dead by a soldier in 2008.


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