NKorea comes to meet its neighbour

North Korean officials will hold a rare meeting with South Korean President Roh Moo-hyun on Wednesday, finishing joint celebrations of their liberation anniversary, where talk of Pyongyang's nuclear programme has been avoided.

The two Koreas have staged a show of friendship since Sunday, with Seoul going out of its way not to offend its North Korean guests and refraining from any mention of Pyongyang's refusal to abandon its nuclear weapons development at international disarmament talks.

The delegation was scheduled to head back to Pyongyang later Wednesday, according to AP.

Led by Kim Ki Nam, vice chairman of the Committee for the Peaceful Reunification of the Fatherland, the North Koreans on Sunday visited South Korea's main cemetery honoring dead from the Korean War the first-ever such visit by officials from the North.

Meeting with the North Korean delegates before the luncheon, Roh said that he felt the joint celebrations marked a new stage relations on the Korean Peninsula, a joint pool report said.

"In particular, it was a great thing that you visited the National Cemetery. That will become the foundation on which good things will continue to happen in the future," Roh said, according to the pool report.

During their four-day visit, Kim held an unprecedented meeting with South Korean parliamentarians but skirted talks on Pyongyang's pursuit of nuclear weapons and international efforts to stop it.

The meetings come during a recess in multilateral talks aimed at persuading North Korea to end its nuclear weapons programmes in exchange for security guarantees and economic aid.

South Korea has continued its engagement with the North despite the international standoff over the communist country's nuclear weapons program.

The talks - among the two Koreas, the United States, China, Japan and Russia - are to resume the week of Aug. 29 in Beijing, AP reminds.

The two Koreas are separated by the world's most heavily armed border and remain technically at war since the 1953 cease-fire that halted the Korean War. No peace treaty has ever been signed.

Photo: Han Sung Ryol, by AP.

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