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Last Updated: Friday, 7 May, 2004, 05:55 GMT 06:55 UK
Koreas progress on defence talks
By Charles Scanlon
BBC correspondent in Seoul

South Korean troops patrol the border
South Korea says the North is responding to reconciliation moves
North Korea has agreed to hold high-level defence talks with South Korea in an attempt to ease military tension.

The agreement came as a convoy of South Korean trucks went through the heavily- fortified border, carrying aid for victims of last month's train disaster.

A blast aboard two trains wrecked the town of Ryongchon, killing 170 people.

North Korea has been happy to talk about aid and economic issues in the past but it has shrugged off appeals to discuss controversial security issues.

Now, after four days of difficult talks in Pyongyang, the North Korean military appears to have dropped its objections.

A joint statement said officers from the two sides would meet to discuss reducing military tension.

Naval clashes in recent years have seen casualties on both sides.

The south claims the north is gradually responding to its policy of reconciliation.

Overwhelming response

Twenty South Korean trucks earlier crossed the heavily-fortified border to deliver aid for disaster victims.

The convoy was loaded with supplies to rebuild schools after last month's train explosion which devastated the town of Ryongchon.

North Korea will also keep the trucks, which were handed over just a few kilometres north of the border.

South Korea has offered $25m in aid to the north.

Red Cross officials say the response to the disaster from the South Korean public has been overwhelming.

There is also growing support for food aid and other assistance, despite suspicions the north is increasing its arsenal of nuclear weapons.

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