"I have to return home tomorrow, regardless of whether things go well or don't go well... That is a big burden."

 

The three-day meeting in the North Korean capital, Pyongyang, is only the second-ever meeting between defence chiefs of the two Koreas, who remain technically at war.

 

It aims to flesh out a pact signed last month at a historic inter-Korean summit at which the leaders of North and South agreed to step up efforts to foster peace and co-operation on the peninsula.

 

Disputed border

 

At that meeting, Kim Jong-il, the North Korean leader, and Roh Moo-hyun, South Korea's president, agreed to establish a joint fishing zone off the divided peninsula's west coast to resolve a long-running row over the sea border.

 

The sea frontier was demarcated by the American-led UN command at the end of the 1950-53 Korean War without consulting the North and the communist country has long demanded the border be redrawn further south.

 

The dispute resulted in deadly skirmishes between the Korean navies in 1999 and 2002.

 

Kim Jang-Soo, right, said the differences
between the two sides are big [AFP]
The South also stressed the importance of North Korea getting rid of nuclear weapons to build military confidence between the sides, and proposed establishing a hotline between the two sides' highest military officials, according to the reports.

 

Another key goal for the South at this week's meetings is securing a military agreement with the North on security arrangements for a cross-border freight train service set to launch next month.

 

Without such an accord, the train service - the first regular rail service between the Koreas since the peninsula was divided more than half a century ago - cannot run.

 

Reactor inspection

 

The Korean exchanges come as officials in Washington announced that Christopher Hill, the chief US nuclear negotiator, is to visit North Korea next week to inspect progress on disabling of the North's nuclear reactor at Yongbon.

 

He will meet US experts who have been in North Korea since early this month to help monitor the disablement process and aim to finish the job by the end of the year.

 

Hill will also meet Pyongyang's chief nuclear negotiator, Kim Kye-gwan and later join other negotiators from China, Russia, Japan and the two Koreas for a fresh round of talks in Beijing to assess North Korea's denuclearisation process.