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South, North Military Officials to Meet

Posted January. 31, 2006 03:01,   


Military officials from South and North Korea will meet at Tongilgak, the North Korea-controlled part of Panmunjom, on February 3. The meeting has been organized to prepare for the third round of inter-Korean general-level military talks.

“The working-level meeting will determine the schedule, venue, agenda and procedure of the general-level talks. Our ministry would like to have the talks sooner rather than later. We will hold the meeting as early as February,” the Ministry of National Defense said yesterday.

The prospective items on the agenda for the general-level talks include the implementation of detailed plans to prevent accidental military conflicts between the two Koreas on the Yellow Sea, the designation of shared fishery zones on the Yellow Sea, the construction of a Kyung-eui east coast railroad across the inter-Korean border, and security measures for a joint flood-control project around the Imjin River. Each of these items will be discussed at the working-level meeting in February.

Since the second round of general-level talks in June 2004, the South and the North have hosted three working-level meetings and meetings between chief negotiators last July, August and November. But the North cited the Ulchi Focus Lens (UFL) training exercise between the U.S. and South Korea as an excuse to postpone the third round of military talks.

If North Korean negotiators choose to point to South Korea’s expanded cooperation with the U.S. on the U.S.-led Proliferation Security Initiative (PSI) at the February meeting, the third round of military talks could be put off further.

Meanwhile, some in the government suspect that the government sent 8,000 tons (worth 4.8 billion won) of pitch to North Korea to pave mountaintop roads and the airport runway near Mt. Baekdu in order to get the North to agree to the third round of military talks.

In response, a government official said, “The pitch shipment is not directly related to the general-level talks. But it is true that the pitch helped create the right conditions for opening another round of military talks.”

Myoung-Gun Lee Min-Hyuk Park gun43@donga.com mhpark@donga.com