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South Korea is holding three rounds of talks and conducting three
South Korea is holding three rounds of talks and conducting three fact-finding missions to North Korea, in accordance with a peace and prosperity pact signed in mid-November in Seoul.

The heads of the North and South Korean Red Cross met for three-days of talks Wednesday to try and reach an agreement ensuring families separated following the 1950-53 Korean War are reunited.

Two-day negotiations to modernize the Kaesong-Pyongyang highway will open in Kaesong on the North Korean border, where a South Korean-backed industrial park is located employing around 20,000 workers.

In Pyongyang, the North and South Korean defense ministers continued their negotiations, which began on Tuesday, to try and reach an agreement on strengthening mutual trust and ensuring security in economic cooperation, in particular establishing a fishing zone in the Yellow Sea, where past territorial disputes have led to naval clashes.

North and South Korea agreed last Friday to launch a cross-border freight train service on December 11, as part of a range of joint projects aimed at boosting economic ties.

The rail service, to be resumed after a more than 50 year hiatus, will run from the South to Kaesong. Mobile phone and internet services are set to be introduced in the city next year.

The agreements followed a meeting in Pyongyang in early October, when the presidents of North and South Korea, Kim Jong-il and Roh Moo-hyun, signed a historic joint declaration pledging a commitment to peace talks and economic cooperation projects. The declaration was followed up when the two countries' premiers met in Seoul for talks in mid-November the first time since 1992.

Meanwhile, technical experts from Russia, China, Japan and South Korea started inspections Tuesday of North Korea's nuclear facilities to monitor the country's denuclearization progress.

The visit is in line with agreements reached by the six nations, including the United States, on October 3, where North Korea agreed to decommission three facilities by December 31, at the Yongbyon center, about 100 km (62 miles) north of Pyongyang.

Technical experts from the United States are already at Yongbyon, leading a team which is dismantling the country's nuclear program.

A Russian Foreign Ministry spokesperson said last week that the experts' visit is part of preparations for a meeting of negotiators in Beijing, scheduled for December 6-8, which will assess Pyongyang's denuclearization progress and consider holding talks at the level of foreign ministers.

North Korea, which tested a nuclear bomb in October 2006, closed down its main nuclear reactor in July under a February six-party deal.

In return for its cooperation, North Korea is to receive aid equivalent to one million tons of fuel oil, and the U.S. has promised it will take steps to remove the country from its blacklist of countries suspected of aiding terrorism.


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