News / Asia

Koreas Move Toward Military Talks to Defuse Tensions

TEXT SIZE - +

South Korea has accepted North Korea’s offer for military talks because Pyongyang appears willing to discuss provocative acts that last year brought the Korean peninsula to its highest level of tension in decades.

Although South Korean officials responded positively to North Korea’s offer of military talks, they made clear on Friday that ending Pyongyang’s nuclear weapons programs must remain the top priority for dialogue.

Chun Hae-sun, the South Korean Unification Ministry spokesman, Chun says Pyongyang, in its letter asking for resumption of military talks, did not mention the nuclear issue so Seoul will propose holding high-level talks on the North’s nuclear program.

At the Defense Ministry in Seoul, officials say next week they will propose a date for preparatory discussions to pave the way for high-level military talks.

North Korea’s state-run broadcasting service on Friday said the armed forces minister proposed holding military talks within the first 10 days of February. His letter, according to the broadcast, confirms the talks will include “expressing views” on the sinking of a South Korean ship and the shelling of a South Korean island last year.

North Korea denies any responsibility for the sinking of the Cheonan, a South Korean navy ship, last March. It justified the shelling of Yeonpyeong island last November as a response to what it considered provocative South Korean military drills in disputed waters.

Professor Yang Moo-jin at the University of North Korean Studies in Seoul says there is a 50-50 chance” of the high-level talks occurring.

Yang says if both sides are able to reach an agreement during working-level talks, then it is possible for such a meeting to occur late next month. But, he cautions, if the preliminary discussions fail, a higher-level meeting could be postponed indefinitely.

If military talks do resume, they will be the first cross-border meeting since the attack on Yeonpyeong. Four South Koreans died in the shelling.

The last round of military talks was held on September 30, 2010. But the South did not succeed in gaining any acknowledgement from the North that it sank the Cheonan, killing 46 sailors.

Professor Yang says this week’s China-U.S. summit has helped prod the two Koreas from a mode of confrontation to conversation.

Yang explains there is now an opportunity for the two Koreas to take control of their own situation on the peninsula. If not, he says, South Korea risks being a bystander in possible two-way talks between Pyongyang and Washington or if the six-party nuclear dialogue resumes in the future.

U.S. officials welcomed the possibility of talks. State Department spokesman Mark Toner says it is a positive sign. But, he cautions it is premature to expect that six-nation talks about North Korea’s nuclear activities will resume soon.

"We still believe that North Korea has a ways to go before we can engage in meaningful six-party talks. As we've said all along, we just don't want to talk for talk's sake," he said.

Besides the two Koreas, the other parties to those talks are China, the United States, Japan and Russia.

North Korea in November revealed a uranium enrichment program, which it says is for peaceful energy production. But some scientists say it gives the country a second route to making nuclear weapons, in addition to its older plutonium program.

North and South Korea have technically been in a state of war for decades. A 1953 truce halted combat in their civil war, but has never been replaced by a peace treaty.

You May Like

Russia-Ukraine Crisis Could Trigger Cyber War

As tensions between Kyiv and Moscow escalate, so too has frequency of online attacks targeting government, news and financial sites More

Egyptian Court Jails 23 Pro-Morsi Supporters

Meanwhile, Egyptian officials say gunmen have killed two members of the country's security forces More

Pakistani Journalists Protest Shooting of Colleague

Hamid Mir, a host for private television channel Geo, was wounded after being shot three times Saturday, but is expected to survive More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Ukraine, Russia, United in Faith, Divided in Politicsi
X
Michael Eckels
April 19, 2014
There is a strong historical religious connection between Russia and Ukraine. But what role is religion playing in the current conflict? In the run-up to Easter, Michael Eckels in Moscow reports for VOA.
Video

Video Ukraine, Russia, United in Faith, Divided in Politics

There is a strong historical religious connection between Russia and Ukraine. But what role is religion playing in the current conflict? In the run-up to Easter, Michael Eckels in Moscow reports for VOA.
Video

Video Face of American Farmer is Changing

The average American farmer is now 58 years old, and farmers 65 and older are the fastest growing segment of the population. It’s a troubling trend signaling big changes ahead for American agriculture as aging farmers retire. Reporter Mike Osborne says a new report from the U.S. Census Bureau is suggesting what some of those changes might look like... and why they might not be so troubling.
Video

Video Donetsk Governor: Ukraine Military Assault 'Delicate But Necessary'

Around a dozen state buildings in eastern Ukraine remain in the hands of pro-Russian protesters who are demanding a referendum on self-rule. The governor of the whole Donetsk region is among those forced out by the protesters. He spoke to VOA's Henry Ridgwell from his temporary new office in Donetsk city.
Video

Video Drones May Soon Send Data From High Seas

Drones are usually associated with unmanned flying vehicles, but autonomous watercraft are also becoming useful tools for jobs ranging from scientific exploration to law enforcement to searching for a missing airliner in the Indian Ocean. VOA’s George Putic reports on sea-faring drones.
Video

Video New Earth-Size Planet Found

Not too big, not too small. Not too hot, not too cold. A newly discovered planet looks just right for life as we know it, according to an international group of astronomers. VOA’s Steve Baragona has more.
Video

Video Copts in Diaspora Worry About Future in Egypt

Around 10 percent of Egypt’s population belong to the Coptic faith, making them the largest Christian minority in the Middle East. But they have become targets of violence since the revolution three years ago. With elections scheduled for May and the struggle between the Egyptian military and Islamists continuing, many Copts abroad are deeply worried about the future of their ancient church. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky visited a Coptic church outside Washington DC.
Video

Video Critics Say Venezuelan Protests Test Limits of Military's Support

During the two months of deadly anti-government protests that have rocked the oil-rich nation of Venezuela, President Nicolas Maduro has accused the opposition of trying to initiate a coup. Though a small number of military officers have been arrested for allegedly plotting against the government, VOA’s Brian Padden reports the leadership of the armed forces continues to support the president, at least for now.
Video

Video More Millenials Unplug to Embrace Board Games

A big new trend in the U.S. toy industry has more consumers switching off their high-tech gadgets to play with classic toys, like board games. This is especially true among the so-called millenial generation - those born in the 1980's and 90's. Elizabeth Lee has more from an unusual café in Los Angeles, where the new trend is popular and business is booming.
Video

Video Google Buys Drone Company

In its latest purchase of high-tech companies, Google has acquired a manufacturer of solar-powered drones that can stay in the air almost indefinitely, relaying broadband Internet connection to remote areas. It is seen as yet another step in the U.S. based Web giant’s bid to bring Internet to the whole world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
AppleAndroid