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North Korea's deputy prime minister arrived in Seoul on Tuesday morning
North Korea's deputy prime minister arrived in Seoul on Tuesday morning for three days of talks on joint economic projects with his South Korean counterpart, Yonhap news agency reported.

The negotiations at a hotel in the South Korean capital are the latest in a series of follow-up meetings to the second-ever summit between the two Koreas, held in October.

This week's talks are set to focus on developing a South Korean-backed industrial park in the North Korean border city of Kaesong, setting up joint shipbuilding facilities in the North, and modernizing the highway from Kaesong to Pyongyang.

Yonhap quoted North Korean Deputy Prime Minister Jon Sung-hun as saying after arriving with 26 delegates: "I think this first meeting of the joint economic committee will serve as an important juncture point."

His South Korean counterpart, who is also finance and economy minister, said: "I hope the committee will successfully put the final touches on inter-Korean relations."

However, Yonhap cited South Korean officials as saying the talks between the deputy premiers were unlikely to produce significant results, as the main details of joint economic projects have already been agreed on, leaving "not much room for the coming talks to cover more ground."

North and South Korea agreed last month to launch a cross-border freight train service on December 11, as part of a range of joint projects aimed at regenerating the impoverished North's crippled economy and infrastructure.

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

During the inter-Korean summit held on October 2-4 in Pyongyang, the South's Roh Moo-hyun and the North's Kim Jong-il 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.

North Korea, which tested a nuclear bomb in October 2006, closed down its main nuclear reactor in July under a February six-nation 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 states suspected of aiding terrorism.


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