Defense chiefs from North and South Korea will discuss turning their disputed sea border into a joint fishing zone during their first talks in seven years this week, a South Korean delegate said yesterday.
South Korean Defense Minister Kim Jang-soo will travel to Pyongyang on a chartered flight today for three days of talk with his North Korean counterpart Kim Il-chol to flesh out agreements struck during a leaders summit last month, the South Korean defense ministry said.
The summit accords call for greater peace and cross-border economic projects between the two Koreas, which are still technically in a state of war since the 1950-1953 Korean War ended in an armistice, not a peace treaty.
A key agenda for the talks will be how to establish a joint fishing area in the West Sea and designate the site as "a peace and cooperation zone," said Colonel Moon Sung-muk, a member of the South Korean delegation.
He didn't elaborate.
The poorly marked western seas border was the scene of bloody naval skirmishes between the two Koreas in 1999 and 2002, and the North has long insisted the frontier be redrawn further south. The waters around the border are rich fishing grounds and boats from the two Koreas routinely jostle for position during the May-June crab-catching season.
In the second-only summit since the peninsula was divided more than a half century ago, South Korean President Roh Moo-hyun and North Korean leader Kim Jong-il agreed last month to also create a special economic complex on the North's southwestern coast.
"I'm cautious of saying the talks will be smoothly conducted," Moon said.
Another issue that could possibly be raised at the talks is South Korea's claim that more than 500 South Korean soldiers captured during the Korean War are believed to be still alive in the North, according to South Korean media.
The North insists there are no prisoners or abductees in the country, insisting people there have come voluntarily.
South Korean Defense Minister Kim said during his visit to Pyongyang last month that he raised the prisoners of war issue with his North Korean counterpart and demanded they be returned.
The South Korean minister said he received no response.
The two Koreas held their first defense ministerial talks on the southern South Korean resort island of Jeju in September 2000, three months after they held the first ever leaders summit in Pyongyang. The defense chiefs failed to meet again because of tension over North Korea's nuclear program.