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Koreas Agree to Military Talks Aimed at Preventing Naval Conflict

  • Kurt Achin

North and South Korea have set a date for military talks, aimed mainly at preventing conflict along their tense maritime border. That announcement came as diplomats from the two Koreas held talks in Seoul - where South Korea told the North it will send food aid when Pyongyang lives up to its promises on nuclear weapons. VOA's Kurt Achin has more from the South Korean capital.

South Korea's Defense Ministry said Thursday that military officers from North and South will meet next Friday in Panmunjom. That village is where a 1953 armistice halted fighting, but did not formally end, the Korean War.

The talks are expected to focus on preventing conflicts over the sea border. North Korean naval authorities this week announced they were patrolling the waters west of the Korean peninsula "with extra vigilance" and accused the South of "reckless military provocations."

North Korea does not accept the sea border established by the United Nations in 1953, and has been involved in at least two deadly skirmishes at sea with the South since 1999.

Separately, high-level diplomats from North and South held a second day of talks Thursday at a hotel here in Seoul. South Korean Unification Ministry spokesman Koh Kyoung-bin told reporters that the North's delegates asked about a South Korean promise to ship 400,000 tons of rice to the impoverished North.

Koh says South Korea's position about providing rice to the North has not changed - it is something that will be done on the basis of trust. He says North and South should work cooperatively to resolve what he calls "a difficult situation."

North Korea has missed by nearly two months a deadline it agreed to earlier this year to begin dismantling its nuclear weapons programs. South Korea says the aid it promised was predicated on North Korea's implementation of that agreement, and says the shipment will be delayed until the North takes action.

Pyongyang blames the delay on a banking issue involving the transfer of $25 million of its money from a bank in Macau. No international bank has been willing to handle the transfer since the U.S. Treasury Department announced the money was linked to illegal North Korean activities.

North Korea says there will be no progress on the nuclear issue until the funds are returned. Senior South Korean and U.S. officials say the financial issue will be resolved soon.

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