North and South Korea on Friday opened a joint liaison office in the North Korean city of Gaeseong to improve communication, Bloomberg reported. The office is being considered the start of a de facto embassy.
Baik Tae-hyun, the South Korean Unification Ministry’s spokesperson, said the two countries will be able to communicate for “24 hours, 365 days”, Reuters reported. Vice minister-level officials from both countries will head the new office and will be permanent representatives for negotiations at weekly meetings.
The South Korean ministry’s chief, Cho Myoung-gyon, said the office was a new chapter in history. “It is a symbol of peace made jointly by South and North Korea,” Cho said at the opening ceremony.
North Korean leader Kim Jong-un and South Korean President Moon Jae-in will meet for the third time in 2018 later this week in Pyongyang. Observers hope the meeting will address the diplomatic impasse between the United States and North Korea.
Kim and Moon had met during a historic peace summit in South Korea’s border village of Panmunjom on April 27, when they agreed to end the Korean War and make efforts to denuclearise the peninsula. They held another surprise meeting a month later at the same location in an effort to save Pyongyang’s planned summit with the United States in June.
The opening of the liaison office, which was scheduled for August, was deferred after denuclearisation discussions between Washington and Pyongyang was stalled after the meeting between Kim and US President Donald Trump in Singapore in June.
After the June summit, the two leaders said they had signed a document agreeing to establish new relations. But not much progress has been made since then. In August, North Korea criticised the US for urging other countries to keep up sanctions against Pyongyang for its nuclear weapons programme.
Earlier this week, Pyongyang requested for a second meeting between Trump and Kim.