- The Washington Times - Sunday, August 14, 2005

Fete marks end

of Japanese rule

SEOUL — More than 180 North Korean delegates flew to South Korea yesterday for celebrations marking the 60th anniversary of independence from Japanese colonial rule.

The four-day event, marked by calls for reunification of the Korean Peninsula, comes in spite of an unresolved crisis over Pyongyang’s nuclear plans. Six-party talks are at a standstill, and South Korea publicly broke with the United States last week over whether the North should be allowed to have a peaceful nuclear-energy program.

Two North Korean passenger jets flew from Pyongyang to Inchon near Seoul yesterday carrying 182 delegates led by senior communist party official Kim Ki-nam.

After an unprecedented visit to the South’s national cemetery to pay respects to soldiers killed in the Korean War, the North Korean delegates joined South Koreans at the opening ceremony, which played to the people’s apparent desire for unification.

“We must overcome regional and partisan interests to join the will and strength of the nation,” Mr. Kim told the crowd.

South Korean Unification Minister Chung Dong-young welcomed the North Koreans’ visit to the national memorial, saying it would help to usher in “a new future of national harmony.”

“We must set aside our painful past and reconcile, help each other and join hands to walk toward the mutual prosperity of the nation,” he said. A banner unfurled from the roof of the stadium with the message: “Unification has already happened.”

Sporadic protests by conservative South Koreans were quickly broken up by authorities, but they said they planned to disrupt some of the events. Extra police are on duty in the city.

After the opening event, the two Koreas’ national soccer teams played a friendly “unification game.” The South won 3-0.

South and North Korea are technically still at war, with only a truce in place since fighting ended in the 1950-53 Korean War, which left the peninsula divided. There has been a rapid warming of ties after an unprecedented but unrepeated summit of the two Korean leaders in 2000. The impoverished North has increasingly depended on the South for food and commercial aid.

But a crisis spurred by Pyongyang’s nuclear ambitions remains unresolved after four rounds of talks to end the North’s nuclear programs in return for aid and security guarantees.

South Korean Foreign Minister Ban Ki-moon has said Seoul plans to hold discussions with visiting officials to help negotiate an agreement when the talks resume.

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