Koreas hold military talks

Rival nations begin first talks in two years in bid to ease cross border tensions.

    Tensions between North and South Korea have deteriorated after the sinking of the Cheonan warship in March [AFP]

    North and South Korea have begun their first military talks in two years, aimed at trying to ease tensions heightened by the sinking of a South Korean frigate near their disputed sea border.

    Seoul's defence ministry said on Thursday that officers from the two sides met at the border truce village of Panmunjom after the North had accepted the South's revised date for the meeting.

    North Korea earlier this month proposed the military meeting to discuss the western maritime border and anti-North Korean leaflets spread by South Koreans.

    Seoul's defence ministry would not confirm what was on the agenda.

    History of tensions

    The poorly marked western sea border, drawn by the United Nations at the end of the 1950-53 Korean War, is a constant source of tension between the two Koreas.

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    Seoul has repeatedly rejected the North's long-standing demands that the sea border be changed. The navies of the two Koreas engaged in three bloody skirmishes near the area in 1999, 2002 and 2009.

    Military tensions have been high since the Cheonan, a South Korean patrol ship sank in March, killing 46 sailors. South Korea and the United States say the vessel was sunk by a North Korean torpedo, a claim Pyongyang denies.

    Seoul and Washington responded to the sinking by staging series of joint military exercises off the peninsula, and by squeezing the North's economy with tougher sanctions.

    The talks on Thursday come as South Korea and the US hold another set of naval drills in the Yellow Sea off the west coast of the Korean peninsula, near where the South Korean vessel sank.

    The exercises are the second in a series of joint manoeuvres focusing on anti-submarine warfare tactics, techniques, and procedures, according to the South Korean defence ministry.

    SOURCE: Agencies


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