Discord marks short Korean military talks

October 2nd, 2008 - 7:02 pm ICT by IANS  

Seoul, Oct 2 (DPA) The first military talks between North and South Korea in eight months ended shortly after they began Thursday with no concrete progress and North Korea accusing the South of spreading propaganda in its territory.Pak Rim Su, the leader of the North’s delegation, accused South Korea of not being prepared to solve problems at the talks in Panmunjom, a village inside the demilitarised zone dividing the two Koreas, South Korea’s Yonhap News Agency reported.

Pak accused private groups in South Korea of spreading propaganda in North Korean territory and warned of “grave consequences” if the activities continued, the South Korean delegation said.

North Korea called the talks to protest the spreading of propaganda leaflets, Pak said.

A day earlier, in announcing that the talks would be held, the South Korean military had said the officer-level talks were being held to discuss the implementation of agreements already made between the neighbours’ militaries.

Lee Sang Cheol, the head of the South’s delegation, said the 90-minute talks had served more as an exchange of opinions about existing problems in Korean relations rather than an effort to resolve specific problems.

The South called on the North to resume their stalled inter-Korean dialogue at all levels, the defence ministry in Seoul said. It also sought cooperation in clearing up the death of a South Korean tourist shot to death in North Korea in July when she wandered into a restricted military area during a beach walk near Mount Kumgang on the east cost of North Korea, the ministry said.

North Korea proposed to hold the military talks in a surprise move last week.

It was the first offer by North Korea to hold such a dialogue since conservative South Korean President Lee Myung Bak took office in February.

Relations between the divided Koreas - which are still technically at war after an armistice and not a peace treaty ended the 1950-53 Korean War - have worsened since Lee took a more hardline stance against the North than his liberal predecessors. For instance, he linked an expansion of economic cooperation with the North with progress by Pyongyang in talks to end its nuclear weapons programme.

The military discussions were held as North Korea prepared to revive work at its main nuclear site at Yongbyon, which it had promised to disable as part of its talks with South Korea, the US, China, Japan and Russia.

The top US negotiator in those talks, Christopher Hill, drove to Pyongyang from Seoul Wednesday after North Korea last week removed seals on its nuclear facilities that were placed there by the International Atomic Energy Agency international nuclear watchdog and said it would resume work at its plutonium-reprocessing plant.

The previous military talks were held in January.

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