South Korean Unification Minister Cho Myoung-gyon has expressed regret over a decision to block a North Korean defector-turned reporter from covering high-level talks between the Koreas at a border village.
The decision to exclude the reporter from the conservative Chosun Ilbo on Monday drew an angry reaction from other South Korean journalists.
Cho says it was ultimately his call to exclude Kim Myeong-seong from pool coverage for the meeting at the border village of Panmunjom.
He says it was an "inevitable policy decision" to improve the chances for successful talks.
Cho says the ministry will work harder in the future to assure that North Korea-born defectors can report on North Korea issues without restrictions.
The ministry says North Korea did not demand that Kim be excluded from covering the meeting.
The South Korean press corps covering the ministry issued a statement denouncing it for a "grave infringement of media freedoms."
The rival Koreas have agreed to hold a groundbreaking ceremony sometime in late November or early December on an ambitious future project to connect their railways and roads.
South Korea's Unification Ministry also said Monday after high-level talks that the rivals agreed to soon hold general-level military talks to discuss reducing border tensions and setting up a joint military committee that's meant to maintain communication and avoid crises and accidental clashes.
The Koreas also agreed to hold talks between sports officials in late October to discuss plans to send combined teams to the 2020 Summer Olympics and make a push to co-host the 2032 Summer Games.
The Koreas also agreed to hold Red Cross talks in November to set up video-conference meetings between aging relatives separated by the 1950-53 Korean War.
The rival Koreas are holding high-level talks Monday to discuss further engagement amid a global diplomatic push to resolve the nuclear standoff with North Korea.
South Korea said Monday's talks will be aimed at finding ways to carry out peace agreements announced after the summit last month between South Korean President Moon Jae-in and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in the North Korean capital of Pyongyang.
The meeting between senior officials comes at a sensitive time as Washington has expressed unease over the fast pace in inter-Korean engagement, which it says should move in tandem with U.S.-led efforts to denuclearize the North.
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