Nov. 27 -- The defense ministers of North Korea and South Korea will begin three days of talks today in Pyongyang to review security after the two nations agreed to a daily freight train link and other economic cooperation.
South Korea's Kim Jang Soo and Kim Il Chol, the vice marshal of the Korean People's Army, will discuss defense protocols for the rail service that begins Dec. 11.
The train link between the towns of Munsan and Bongdong, agreed earlier this month between the prime ministers of the two countries, will carry goods to and from the Gaeseong industrial complex in North Korea.
South Korea has been pushing for more economic cooperation with North Korea since the government in Pyongyang began disabling its nuclear program. South Korea is trying to narrow the gap between their economies and prepare for eventual reunification. Its economy is 35 times bigger than its northern neighbor and its citizens earn 17 times more.
The defense ministers will also discuss maritime boundaries in the Yellow Sea following an agreement to develop an economic zone in the coastal Haeju area in North Korea, set joint fishing grounds, allow civilian North Korean vessels to pass through the waters and jointly use the estuary to the lower Han river.
Kim Jong Il and South Korean President Roh Moo Hyun agreed to increase economic cooperation and seek a formal end to the 1950-1953 Korean War, which was concluded with an armistice rather than a peace treaty, when they met Oct. 2-4.
South Korean Prime Minister Han Duck Soo and his northern counterpart Kim Yong Il held three days of follow-up talks that concluded Nov. 16.
They agreed that South Korea will next year begin upgrading the railway between Gaeseong and Sinuiju, near North Korea's border with China, and the expressway between Gaeseong and Pyongyang.
They also agreed to begin building plants to manufacture blocks used in ship hulls in Anbyun in the first six months of 2008 and to upgrade existing ship maintenance plants in Nampo, both towns in North Korea. South Korea has the world's three largest shipbuilding companies.
Their joint economic projects may cost $11.2 billion and will reduce the cost of reunification, according to the Hyundai Research Institute.
Earlier this month, the communist nation, under the supervision of U.S. inspectors, began disabling its Yongbyon nuclear complex that produced weapons-grade plutonium.
Under an accord signed with the U.S., China, Japan, Russia and South Korea, the communist nation pledged to disable its nuclear program and declare all nuclear materials by the end of this year.
Assistant Secretary of State Christopher Hill, the chief U.S. negotiator to the six-nation nuclear talks, will leave today on a trip to South Korea, Japan and China to discuss the ongoing denuclearization steps, State Department spokesman Sean McCormack told reporters in Washington yesterday, without providing further details.