South Korea's Yonhap news agency reported Friday that Washington has proposed setting up a liaison office in Pyongyang. If accurate, the offer would establish the first permanent and direct diplomatic interaction between the two countries.
The offer was apparently part of a letter hand carried to Pyongyang earlier this month by U.S. envoy Stephen Bosworth. Bosworth refused to acknowledge the existence of such a letter while here in Seoul following his trip. The South Korean media report cites diplomatic sources in China.
Koh Yoo-hwan, a senior North Korea scholar at Seoul's Donguk University, says such an office could be beneficial to both sides.
He says a permanent liaison office would give the United States and North Korea an opportunity for consistent dialogue on practical issues, such as an eventual peace treaty to end the 1950s Korean war, or ending the North's nuclear weapons programs.
Returning from North Korea this month, U.S. Envoy Bosworth said six-nation talks about the North's nuclear programs were likely to resume soon and that Pyongyang understood the importance of living up to its signed nuclear pledges.
Separately, South Korea sent humanitarian assistance to North Korea Friday.
Trucks carrying the antiviral drug Tamiflu rolled over the tense border separating the two Koreas, which remain technically at war.
The South sent the North about half a million doses of the drug, following North Korea's confirmation of an outbreak. Such aid transfers have all but halted since conservative President Lee Myung-bak took office early last year. Mr. Lee says aid and investment are contingent on North Korea taking steps to end its nuclear weapons programs.
Kim Young Il, Humanitarian Aid Director at South Korea's Unification Ministry, says Friday's shipment is an important exception.
He describes the outbreak of H1N1, also known as swine flu, as an emergency situation. Considering the flu can spread quickly, he says, South Korea decided on a humanitarian basis to provide prompt help to the North Korea people.