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North, South Korean Joint Sea Zone Proposal Stalls at Military Talks


North and South Korean generals have failed to agree on the specifics of a proposal for cooperation between the two rivals. The latest round of high-level military talks has ended with no progress on creating a joint fishing zone. VOA's Kurt Achin reports from Panmunjom.

North and South Korean generals say they will keep talking - but for now, they say the idea of a shared fishing zone is not ready for reality.

Senior officers from the communist North and the capitalist South concluded talks amicably with lunch Friday at the village of Panmunjom, in the middle of the Demilitarized Zone separating their two countries. It was here that a 1953 armistice was signed to end three years of fighting after the North invaded the South in 1950. There has never been a formal treaty and the two sides are technically at war.

The sticking point of this week's three days of talks is a promise made in October between South Korean President Roh Moo-hyun and North Korean Leader Kim Jong Il. They vowed to create a joint fishing zone in waters west of the Korean peninsula.

North Korea has never accepted the sea border the United Nations drew, known as the Northern Limit Line, or NLL. The two Koreas have fought deadly naval clashes in the area.

South Korean Colonel Moon Sung-mook told reporters Friday the two sides have different ideas where that zone should be. He says South Korea wants the fishing zone to straddle the NLL, but North Korea wants the zone to be set completely south of the line, in waters internationally recognized as South Korean. Because of the impasse, he says, there can be no agreement at this time.

The dispute led to a shoving match Thursday when a South Korean officer tried to stop a North Korean delegate from showing reporters a map detailing Pyongyang's proposal for a shared maritime zone. The South considers the information sensitive.

Moon says the two sides will continue talking in the future, and added that the negotiators managed to streamline customs procedures for South Koreans traveling to the North.

Since North and South Korea held their first summit seven years ago, hundreds of thousands of South Koreans have been able to travel north for business and tourism. South Korea built and manages two special zones in the North - a resort at Kumgang mountain, and an industrial park in the North Korean city of Kaesong.

South Korean military officers said Friday that North Korean agreed this week to allow both zones to begin using Internet and wireless telephone connections beginning next year.

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