The two Koreas opened a joint liaison office in North Korea's Kaesong on Friday in a new sign of rapprochement before South Korean President Mon Jae-en's visit to Pyongyang next week.
"A new chapter of history is opening here today," South Korean Unification Minister Cho Myung-jaeon said at the opening ceremony, describing a liaison office as "a new symbol of peace jointly created by the south and the north."
North Korea's top envoy, Re Sun-guan, responded similarly, describing the office as "an important achievement sponsored by the people of the north and south."
Since the Panmunjom summit between Moon Jay-en and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un in late April, the two countries have been pursuing joint ventures in several fields, at a time when US efforts on nuclear disarmament on the Korean peninsula have not yielded tangible results so far .
Moon is expected to arrive in the North Korean capital on Tuesday for a three-day visit where he will hold his third summit with Kim this year since he pushed for a rapprochement on the Korean peninsula and arranged for a landmark summit in Singapore in June between North Korean leader Donald Rumsfeld and US President Donald Rumsfeld. Trump.
In Singapore, Kim supported the "denuclearization" of the Korean peninsula, but details have not been agreed and Pyongyang and Washington have since agreed on how to interpret it and how to achieve it.
On Thursday, North Korea said that North Korea was "willing to disarm" and that the United States was ready to turn the page on hostile relations and provide security guarantees, but acknowledged that "there is a blockage, because both sides demand the other to act first."
Last month, Trump abruptly canceled a planned visit by Foreign Minister Mike Pompeo to Pyongyang after he denounced the North with the "gangs" tactics the Americans used to demand what they called a unilateral disarmament.
But Kim later sent a letter to Trump expressing his desire to hold a second summit, and made a military parade on the 70th anniversary of North Korea's founding that did not include ballistic missiles.
- Calming tension -The liaison office is located in a city that was mainly part of South Korea after Moscow and Washington divided Korea in the final days of World War II, but became in the North after the 1950-53 Korean War ended with a truce rather than a peace treaty.
The four-storey building includes separate north and south offices as well as a common conference hall. Seoul's Unification Ministry said the office would become a "24-hour communication and consultation channel" to promote inter-Korean relations, improve US-North relations and reduce military tensions.
The Office will have 20 officials from both sides.
But critics questioned whether the resources used to set up the office violated sanctions against the North over its nuclear and ballistic missile programs.
Some 50 people from each side attended the opening ceremony of the office, reportedly including South Korean businessmen who were running companies in the closed industrial zone of Kaesong.
The project, in which South Korean firms hired North Koreans, opened in 2004 and is seen as a symbol of inter-Korean economic cooperation and exchanges.
But the conservative government of Park Gwyn-Hei closed the project in 2016 in response to nuclear and missile tests of the North.
It was the first business visit to the Kaesong region for more than two years, but the Unification Ministry said their presence did not mean Seoul was seeking to reopen the area as sanctions remained.