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Tuesday, 6 August, 2002, 07:47 GMT 08:47 UK
Korean talks agree to ease tension
North Korean Army delegates, including Yi Chong-bok (right) talk with the United Nations Command
Delegates agreed the need for better communication
A North Korean military delegation and the US-led United Nations Command have agreed to take measures to ease the bristling tension on the North-South Korean maritime border.

Representatives of North Korea and the UNC, which oversees an armistice between the North and the South, met at the border village of Panmunjom to discuss the western sea border following a fatal naval clash in June.

Major General James Soligan of the UNC described his meeting with the delegation led by North Korea's Lieutenant General Yi Chong-bok as "very positive".

"These talks today proved that positive progress can be made only through open dialogue," he said.

A UNC statement said the two sides agreed on the need for better communication, including regular staff-level meetings, in order to avoid another naval confrontation.

"Details of these measures will be discussed in future talks," the statement said.


Northern Limit Line
  • Declared by UN in 1953
  • Not officially recognised by North
  • Regularly breached by North's navy
    See also:

  • Four South Korean sailors were killed in the June fighting, and a fifth is still missing. South Korea officials believe that 13 North Korean soldiers were killed or injured.

    The UNC announcement followed media reports from Panmunjom that the two sides were swapping protests over the June clash.

    North Korea reportedly demanded that a new maritime border be established with the South, reiterating its argument that the existing Northern Limit Line (NLL) is illegal.

    The NLL was drawn up by the US after the 1950-53 Korean War.

    Both North and South Korea claim that their worst maritime clash in three years was initiated by the other, although North Korea has since expressed "regret" over the incident.

    This has opened the way for a break in the impasse between the two sides and high-level talks are scheduled for 12-14 August in Seoul.

    Diplomacy

    There has been a flurry of diplomatic activity centred around isolationist Pyongyang in recent days.

    North Korean Foreign Minister Paek Nam-sun met US Secretary of State Colin Powell and Japanese Foreign Minister Yoriko Kawaguchi during a regional security forum in Brunei last week.

    Following those talks, North Korea said it had agreed to resume talks with Tokyo and Washington.

    Meanwhile, South Korean and American warships and aircraft are on alert along the disputed Korean naval border as preparations continue for an operation to recover the vessel which was sunk during the June clash.

    A rescue team of 60 navy frog-men and five salvage ships - including a submarine - have been deployed for the operation, which is expected to take around two months.

    Seoul's attempts to salvage the boat which sunk in the clash were hampered for a second day on Tuesday because of bad weather.


    Nuclear tensions

    Inside North Korea

    Divided peninsula

    TALKING POINT
    See also:

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