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North Korea Abandons 'Fruitless' Military Talks With South

  • Kurt Achin

North Korea has angrily ended the latest round of high-level military talks with South Korea. As in previous flare-ups, the cause was South Korea's refusal of the North's demand that an internationally recognized maritime border be redrawn to Pyongyang's preferences. VOA's Kurt Achin reports from Seoul.

Friction was already in evidence as Thursday's session of inter-Korean military talks got started at the border-straddling village of Panmunjom.

After two previous days of unsuccessful talks, South Korea's chief envoy, Maj. Gen. Jung Seung-jo called on both sides to accept each other's positions.

But the head of the North Korean delegation, Lieutenant General Kim Yong Chol, was in no mood to compromise.

Kim responded by accusing the South of failing to understand or accept the North Korean side.

Soon after, with no handshake and no date set for further meetings, North Korean delegates marched out of the meeting room. The North's Kim said his country had "no need for these fruitless talks." The South's Jung called the breakdown of the talks "regrettable."

Communist North Korea invaded capitalist South Korea in 1950. A 1953 armistice halted the fighting, but the war was never formally concluded by a peace treaty. The 248-kilometer-long no-man's-land bisecting the Korean peninsula, where this week's talks took place, is demilitarized, but emplacements and troops on either side make it one of the most heavily armed borders in the world.

That tension extends out to the two countries' sea border, which was at the heart of the dispute on Thursday. The United Nations established a maritime division between the Koreas known as the Northern Limit Line in 1953.

North Korea has rejected that border for decades as illegal, and fought deadly naval skirmishes with South Korea in waters west of the peninsula in 1999 and 2002. Experts say the area is rich in seafood and other ocean resources, fueling competition over territorial markers.

As it has done in previous military talks, Pyongyang made redrawing the Northern Limit Line its central demand this week. South Korea refused to discuss the demand, saying the talks should aim for more simple, tactical goals.

South Korea says it had hoped to build on a historic test of a cross-border railroad line in May by seeking security mechanisms for future rail crossings. Seoul also hoped to refine arrangements for defusing future naval conflicts, such as a telephone hotline between the two capitals. Pyongyang says those issues can only be addressed after the maritime border issue is resolved.

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