Panmunjom (AFP) South Korea, July 26, 2007
Talks aimed at averting bloody naval clashes between South and North Korea broke down Thursday when the communist state refused to recognise their sea border. "We've come to the conclusion that we don't need these fruitless talks any more," North Korea's chief delegate Lieutenant-General Kim Yong-Chol said on the third and final day of a high-level military meeting.
A red-faced and apparently angry Kim attacked the South for refusing to discuss replacing the Northern Limit Line in the Yellow Sea with a new maritime border, calling the current line "illegal."
The Northern Limit Line (NLL), drawn up by United Nations forces at the end of the 1950-1953 Korean War, has been a flashpoint in recent years.
Six South Koreans were killed in a clash in June 2002 in the area, while in June 1999 a similar skirmish killed dozens of North Korean sailors.
The North says the South's warships continue to fuel tensions by violating its waters in the area, accusations rejected by Seoul.
The talks at the border truce village of Panmunjom were aimed at discussing ways to prevent further clashes and setting up a joint fishing area. They come amid a wider easing of tensions after the North shut the reactor which supplied its nuclear weapons programme.
But the South refuses to accept the North's insistence that the way to avoid clashes is to hold talks on redrawing the sea border. It says the two sides should instead discuss issues such as the opening of a hotline between Navy commanders.
"It is highly regrettable that we have to wrap up the three days of talks with no concrete results," a tense-looking Major-General Jung Seung-Jo, the head of the South's delegation, told Kim.
Jung referred to the North's demand that the South help draw up a new border. "Your side continued making this demand even though your side know very well that our side cannot accept it," he said.
Kim accused the South of dodging the basic issue and sticking "to the illegal NLL."
He added: "The joint fishing area your side suggests to us only reveals your plot to hold to the NLL."
The two generals left the room without shaking hands or setting a date for their next meeting.
The South Korean military said in a statement that Pyongyang wants the joint fishing area south of the current border, while Seoul says the border should bisect it.
It said the NLL has been in place for more than 50 years and urged the North to "faithfully implement measures that the two sides have already agreed upon."
Thursday's session got off to a rocky start when Kim complained that he felt "as if I had become a victim of April Fool's Day jokes."
The delegations were also discussing military safety guarantees for cross-border railways, roads and other economic projects.
Trains from the two countries crossed the heavily fortified border on May 17 on historic test runs. The South wants a regular service to serve growing economic links but the North has been unwilling to extend safety guarantees.
The South said the North refused to discuss overland transport until the sea border issue is settled.
"It is our government's position that we must be firm in preserving the NLL," said South Korean spokesman Colonel Moon Seong-Mook.
"It is not the first time that the North has made such remarks. Despite such remarks, the talks have been going on."
Source: Agence France-Presse
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North Korea May Disable Nukes Before Deadline But Wants A Light Water Reactor
Beijing (AFP) July 20, 2007
North Korea may still declare all of its nuclear weapons and disable them this year even though no deadline was agreed upon at six-nation talks that ended here Friday, the US envoy said. "My opinion remains the same. All of this is do-able by the end of the year," Christopher Hill told reporters when asked about the failure to set the ambitious deadline during the three days of discussions in Beijing.
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