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Koreas Hold First Military Meeting Since Missile Tests


North and South Korean military officials have been in face-to-face contact for the first time since Pyongyang's test-firing of missiles last July caused a chill in North-South relations. While the one-day meeting ended more than two months without dialogue, it left major issues between the two countries unresolved.

The meeting took place on the North Korean side of the border village of Panmunjom. The village is located in the Demilitarized Zone, which divides the two countries.

South Korea's chief delegate to Monday's talks, Colonel Moon Sung-mook, says North Korea requested the dialogue last week.

Moon says no agreement was made during Monday's discussions, but called it positive that dialogue has been restarted.

Military talks between the two Koreas have been on hold since July 7, when South Korea canceled a scheduled meeting in protest of the North's missile tests two days earlier.

Despite advance warnings against the launch from many quarters, including Washington and Seoul, Pyongyang test-fired at least seven missiles on July 5th, including one long-range version designed to reach the United States.

The launch led to a U.N. Security Council resolution condemning the tests, and calling for economic sanctions against the North.

According to the South Korean delegation, Monday's talks did not address North Korea's development of nuclear weapons, which South Korean, American, Russian, Chinese and Japanese diplomats have tried for three years to persuade Pyongyang to abandon.

The South Koreans said they urged the North to guarantee security for roads and railways joining the two halves of the peninsula. Those connections, which cross the heavily fortified DMZ, were constructed after a historic 2000 summit between North Korean leader Kim Jong Il and then-South Korean President Kim Dae-jung led to a warming of ties.

Kim Dae-jung had hoped to use the new train to make a return visit to the North in June of this year, but postponed his plans in June when it appeared that the missile tests were going to take place.

The North Korean delegation called for the South to honor a 2004 commitment to prevent the issuing of propaganda near the DMZ. Private South Korean groups have tried on several occasions to float balloons over the border with messages criticizing the Kim Jong Il regime's human-rights abuses.

The talks produced no progress in resolving a disagreement over the countries' western maritime border, drawn by the United Nations after the Korean armistice was signed in 1953. The North refuses to recognize the border, and the two countries have fought several deadly naval battles in the area.

No further North-South military talks have been scheduled.

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