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N. Korea brings number of staff at liaison office to normal level: ministry

All Headlines 11:51 March 29, 2019

SEOUL, March 29 (Yonhap) -- North Korea has sent additional officials to a joint inter-Korean liaison office, bringing the number of its staff stationed there to levels seen before its abrupt withdrawal from the office last week, the unification ministry said Friday.

Currently, around 10 North Korean officials are working at the liaison office in the North's border town of Kaesong, up from the four or five North Korean staff members restored to the office on Monday, three days after Pyongyang suddenly withdrew all of its people from there.

"Around nine or ten people (from the North) work (at the office) usually," Lee Eugene, the ministry's deputy spokeswoman, told a regular press briefing. "It appears that things have almost returned to business as usual."

Last Friday, the North abruptly pulled its entire staff from the liaison office without giving a clear reason. Pyongyang restored some officials to the office on Monday.

The withdrawal was seen as aimed at putting pressure on Seoul to work harder to persuade the United States to lower its demands in denuclearization negotiations after the breakdown of last month's summit between North Korean leader Kim Jong-un and U.S. President Donald Trump.

However, the two Koreas will not hold a weekly meeting of its co-heads of the office on Friday, the spokeswoman said. This marks the fifth consecutive week that they have not held such a meeting.

She said that the North informed South Korea in advance that its chief, Jon Jong-su, could not travel to the office, but added that it did not provide any clear reason for his absence.

The two Koreas opened the office in September last year to foster their cross-border exchanges and reduce tensions by keeping a communications channel open at all times. It was a follow-up to an agreement their leaders reached in April.

They are supposed to hold weekly meetings between the co-heads of the office, mostly every Friday, but there have been no such meetings since the breakdown of last month's Kim-Trump summit.

N. Korea brings number of staff at liaison office to normal level: ministry - 1

kokobj@yna.co.kr
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