North, South Korea Move to Repair Ties

SEOUL, South Korea (Reuters) -

North and South Korea announced on Thursday they were planning to hold talks for the first time since February 2011, signaling attempts to repair ties that have been ruptured for months.

For months earlier this year, North Korea unleashed an almost daily stream of threats against the South and its ally, the United States, vowing to attack them with nuclear weapons. Tension on the Korean peninsula was at the highest in decades but has waned since joint U.S.-South Korean military drills ended in late April.

North Korea’s state-owned KCNA news agency issued a statement on Thursday proposing talks with the South on normalizing commercial projects, including the joint industrial zone that was closed at the height of tensions in early April.

It also said Pyongyang would restore severed communications channels if the South accepted the offer of talks, indicating it was prepared to roll back a series of hostile steps it took as relations deteriorated.

South Korea welcomed the offer, proposing that ministers hold talks on June 12 to discuss a range of issues including the commercial projects and families split during the 1950-53 Korean War.

“We hope that the talks take place between the authorities of the South and the North as we proposed and are accepted by the North and become an occasion for relations to develop based on mutual trust,” Unification Minister Ryoo Kihl-jae said.

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, a former South Korean foreign minister, was “hopeful it is the beginning of a process of trust-building between the parties.”