Fri, Jun 04, 2004 - Page 5 News List

Koreas' brass hold more talks

DIPLOMACY Military leaders from both sides of the DMV got together at a resort in the south to discuss explosive issues such as fishing rights

REUTERS , MOUNT SORAK,SOUTH KOREA

An Ik-san, a brigadier-general in the North Korean army, is welcomed by a South Korean woman upon his arrival at Mt. Sorak, a South Korean resort, yesterday.

PHOTO: REUTERS

Senior military officers from South and North Korea held a second round of talks yesterday to try to find ways to prevent deadly naval clashes and make tangible progress in reducing military tension.

A North Korean delegation led by Brigadier-general An Ik-san crossed the Demilitarized Zone -- the world's most fortified frontier -- early yesterday for talks with the South Koreans led by Rear-admiral Park Jung-hwa.

"We look forward to a good meeting since we are sitting closer this time," An said at the opening of the talks, comparing the seating arrangement with the expansive setting in Mount Kumgang last week in the North.

South Korea is expecting "visible progress" that would move discussions forward on its proposals to establish compatible communications between vessels in the Yellow Sea, a defense ministry official said.

The rich fishing grounds west of the peninsula have been the scene of naval clashes during the crab-fishing season in May and June. Dozens of sailors on both sides have been killed or wounded in the past. South Korea is proposing a hotline connecting the two militaries' naval commands and sharing of radio frequencies.

North Korea's five-officer delegation arrived at the Kensington Hotel on the hills of Mount Sorak's scenic rocky peaks, driving up in black Mercedes Benz sedans with license plates stripped off.

The North Korean general expressed interest in work to pave a highway and lay a railway through the border, saying he was disappointed at not having had the chance to see the progress when he crossed the border.

"We showed you the progress on our side; we just want to see how the work is going," he said.

The passages on both coasts are part of projects to promote commercial exchanges between the two Koreas, the highlights of which are an industrial zone being developed in Kaesong near the west coast and the Mount Kumgang tourist area on the east coast.

Economic officials were meeting in separate talks in the North Korean capital of Pyongyang yesterday to work out the logistics of the Kaesong project, South Korea's unification ministry said.

South Korea has urged the North to be more forthcoming on discussions to ease military tension, saying it can only help progress in commercial projects.

A long reluctance by the North's military to engage its South Korean counterparts in talks took a turn last month when the North agreed to the senior officers' talks.

North Korean President Kim Jong-il, who rules the communist state as chairman of its defense committee, stepped in to give the go-ahead on the military talks, South Korean Unification Minister Jeong Se-hyun has said.

The two Koreas technically remain at war because the 1950-53 Korean War ended in a truce rather than a peace treaty. The two general-rank officers held a first round of talks in North Korea last week -- the highest-level talks between military officers since the war.

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