NKorean team in Seoul to discuss summit projects

Other News Materials 4 December 2007 08:36 (UTC +04:00)

( AFP ) - North Korea's deputy premier arrived Tuesday in South Korea for three days of talks on sweeping economic cooperation projects agreed during a historic summit in October.

Deputy Premier Jon Sung-Hun, leading a 27-member delegation, arrived on a direct flight from Pyongyang, said a spokesman for Seoul's Unification Ministry which handles cross-border relations.

Jon's is the third delegation in less than three weeks to visit Seoul, in a sign of warming relations as the North disables its nuclear programmes. Prime ministers met last month to follow up the summit agreements.

Last week senior official Kim Yang-Gon, a close aide to leader Kim Jong-Il, visited for three days of talks and tours of industrial sites. The Seoul government said his visit was also aimed at following up summit pacts.

The two leaders on October 4 called for moves to promote peace and major economic projects, including a joint economic zone around the North's southwestern port and naval base of Haeju.

They also called for the expansion of an existing industrial complex in the North's border city of Kaesong; renovations to the North's dilapidated roads and railways; and joint shipbuilding complexes at Anbyeon and Nampo.

A regular cross-border freight train service, which will service Kaesong, is set to start on December 11 for the first time in over half a century.

Hyundai Research Institute has estimated that all the summit projects would cost South Korea some 11 billion dollars. The government says the private sector will pick up most of the tab.

Seven members of the delegation which arrived Tuesday were scheduled to hold an hour-long session with their South Korean counterparts, including Vice Premier and Finance Minister Kwon O-Kyu, in the afternoon.

South Korea sees joint business projects as the best way to revive the economy of its impoverished communist neighbour and narrow the huge wealth gap before any reunification. Its gross national income is 17 times higher than the North's.