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Inter-Korean Military Talks End Without Agreement

South Korean delegation chief Colonel Moon Sung-Mook, (L) is greeted by an unidentified North Korean officer upon his arrival at the Northern side of the border village of Panmunjom in the Demilitarised Zone (DMZ) separating the two Koreas. Photo courtesy of AFP.
by Jun Kwanwoo
Seoul (AFP) Oct 02, 2006
Military officers from North and South Korea held talks Monday for the first time in almost five months but failed to agree on ways to ease tensions on the divided peninsula. The South's team said the communist state's July missile tests were not directly discussed but that it had raised the issue of heightened tensions in general.

"There was no agreement ... but it was meaningful to resume the suspended military talks," chief delegate Colonel Moon Sung-Mook told reporters after the two-hour talks on the northern side of the border village of Panmunjom.

The North, he said, complained about anti-communist leaflets being spread across the heavily fortified border and about the behaviour of South Korean tourists and business visitors.

"We raised the issues of guaranteeing military security for inter-Korean economic cooperation projects, easing military tensions and building trust," Moon said.

"The North said it remained unchanged in pushing for the military security guarantee for inter-Korean economic projects but said it was more important for circumstances to mature."

Explaining the "circumstances," Moon said the North wants the South to take firmer action to stop the leaflets, spread by balloons across the border's barbed wire, and to control its visitors.

"The North complained about our civic groups spreading leaflets along the border, and also South Korean visitors bringing in unauthorised goods and items and making unnecessary contacts with North Koreans at Mount Kumgang and the Kaesong industrial complex," said Colonel Moon.

"We explained to them our efforts to prevent such incidents and also asked them to understand the diversity of our society."

The offensive items, he said, were cellphones, books, newspapers, magazines and GPS equipment brought to Mount Kumgang.

Visitors to the east coast mountain resort are tightly regulated. Kaesong in the west is an industrial zone being developed by South Korean firms.

Moon declined to say whether the talks could be considered successful but said no date was set for the next round.

It was the first military contact since general-level talks in May to discuss ways to reduce tensions on the world's last Cold War frontier.

The North is involved in a standoff with the West over both its missile and nuclear weapons programmes.

Seoul has pursued a "sunshine policy" of engagement with its neighbour, including a landmark 2000 summit, but this came under strain after the July 5 missile tests.

The South rejected a proposed July military meeting in protest at the missile launches -- the first time since the summit that it had refused dialogue -- but agreed to a North Korean call for Monday's talks.

It also suspended regular humanitarian aid following the launches, which sparked UN Security Council condemnation and weapons-related sanctions.

North Korea, which declared in February 2005 that it had built nuclear weapons, is also at odds with the United States and its allies including Seoul over its nuclear ambitions.

It has boycotted six-party talks aimed at ending its nuclear weapons program since last November, in protest at US financial sanctions. There have also been media reports it may be planning a nuclear test.

The last military talks in May bogged down over the North's demand to redraw the disputed sea border and the South's call for a security guarantee before a cross-border railway reopens.

The North has never recognized the Northern Limit Line sea border drawn at the end of the war. The South wants to maintain the line but work out ways of preventing naval skirmishes near it.

Naval clashes in 1999 and 2002 left casualties on both sides. Moon said they raised the sea border issue Monday but did not specify the response.

The two Koreas have been technically at war since the 1950-53 conflict ended in an armistice and not a peace treaty.

Source: Agence France-Presse

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