SEOUL, South Korea – South Korea has accepted North Korea's proposal for talks on a joint factory park, setting up the first high-level dialogue between the two countries in a year, an official said Sunday.
Unification Ministry spokeswoman Lee Jong-joo told reporters that officials of the two Koreas plan to meet in the border town of Kaesong on Tuesday to discuss the factory complex.
The facility on the northern side of the border is the last major joint project between the rival Koreas and a key source of currency for the impoverished North's communist regime.
The meeting comes amid rising tensions on the Korean Peninsula over the North's rocket launch and the detention of a South Korean man accused of denouncing the North's political system.
Pyongyang has expelled international monitors, vowed to quit six-nation disarmament talks and restart its nuclear program to protest of the U.N. Security Council's condemnation of its rocket launch on April 5.
North Korea insists it sent a satellite into space, but regional powers say nothing reached orbit and the launch was actually a test of long-range missile technology.
"We will thoroughly ensure that the inter-Korean contact will be made in a way that secures the safety of people and contributes to the development of Kaesong complex," Lee said.
Sunday's announcement came a day after North's Korea's military repeated a warning for South Korea to stay out of a U.S.-led security initiative aimed at halting the spread of weapons of mass destruction.
An unnamed North Korean military spokesman said Saturday that South Korea's full participation in the Proliferation Security Initiative would be seen "as a declaration of undisguised confrontation and a declaration of a war against" North Korea.
South Korea, which has been an observer, had planned to officially announce its full participation Sunday, but decided on a delay following the North's proposal of a meeting, a Foreign Ministry official said Saturday on condition of anonymity, citing department policy.
The PSI, which began in 2003, is aimed at deterring states such as North Korea and Iran from trade in missile and nuclear technology.