- Kim and Moon to meet for third time next week
- Communication now open 24 hrs: minister
- US sanctions North Korea tech firms
North and South Korea opened a liaison office on the North's side of their heavily militarised border yesterday, setting up a permanent channel of communication as part of a flurry of efforts to end their decades old rivalry.
Steps by North and South Korea to improve their relations are running parallel to a bid by the United States and its allies to press North Korea to give up its nuclear weapons and ballistic missile programmes.
The opening of the joint liaison office at Kaesong, just inside the North Korean side of the border, comes days before North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and South Korean President Moon Jae-in are due to hold their third meeting this year.
"The two sides are now able to take a large step toward peace, prosperity and unification of the Korean peninsula by quickly and frankly discussing issues arising from inter-Korean relations," said Ri Son Gwon, the head of North Korea's delegation at the opening ceremony.
The two Koreas previously communicated by fax and special telephone lines, which were often severed when their relations took a turn for the worse.
Now they will now be able to "directly discuss issues 24 hours, 365 days", South Korea's Unification Minister Cho Myoung-gyon said at the ceremony.
The office will be staffed by up to 20 people each from the two sides with the South Koreans on the second floor and the North Koreans on the fourth floor of the four-story building, reported Reuters.
Vice minister-level officials will head their teams at the office and will attend weekly meetings, the South Korean Unification Ministry said.
The office is at the site of the Kaesong industrial complex, where for about a decade, South Korean companies ran production lines staffed by North Korean workers at the industrial park.
Meanwhile, the US on Thursday imposed sanctions on a China-based tech firm, its North Korean CEO and a Russian subsidiary, accusing them of moving illicit funding to North Korea in violation of US sanctions.
The new sanctions target China-based Yanbian Silverstar Network Technology Co, its North Korean chief executive Jong Song Hwa, and a Russian-based sister company, Volasys Silver Star, the US Treasury Department said in a statement.
Despite a recent diplomatic thaw with the nuclear-armed North, South Korea launched its first ever missile-capable attack submarine yesterday, reported AFP.