News / Asia

North Korea Asks for Delay for Truce Village Talks

In this April 24, 2010 file photo, a giant offshore crane salvages the bow section of the South Korean naval ship Cheonan
In this April 24, 2010 file photo, a giant offshore crane salvages the bow section of the South Korean naval ship Cheonan

North Korea abruptly postponed talks with the U.S.-led United Nations Command in the truce village of Panmunjom.

Two hours before the talks were to be held Tuesday morning, North Korea gave notice that its delegation would not be showing up, saying it needed more time to prepare for the meeting.

The United Nations Command says the North's military representatives requested a delay "for administrative reasons."  No new date has been announced.

The U.N. Command said Monday the talks would be held by colonels from both sides. The meeting was intended to pave the way for talks by U.S. and North Korean generals about the March sinking of a South Korean navy ship.

An international investigation concluded that the ship, the Cheonan, sank after an explosion caused by a North Korean torpedo. Pyongyang denies having anything to do with the sinking.

In Seoul, Korea University Professor Yoo Ho-Yeol, a specialist on North Korea, says Pyongyang probably needs more time to formulate its response to the Cheonan incident.

Professor Yoo says, however, the fact that the North Korean army has agreed to hold such talks is a signal Pyongyang is willing to switch back into dialogue mode.

Generals from the North Korean army and the U.S.-led U.N. command have met 16 times at Panmunjom, in the Demilitarized Zone, since 1998. The talks are intended as confidence-building measures under the truce that ended fighting in the Korean War in 1953.

North Korea also is showing a renewed willingness to return to the table to discuss its nuclear weapons programs. It has boycotted those six-nation talks for more than a year. However, Seoul and Washington have reacted with skepticism, saying North Korea should first apologize for the attack on the Cheonan.

In response to the sinking, the U.S. and South Korea plan naval exercises in the Yellow Sea, which China and Pyongyang both have criticized.

The North Korean ruling party newspaper Rodong Sinmun, says such an exercise would be a dangerous military provocation that could put the peninsula on the brink of war.

The South Korean Defense Ministry says such training is necessary to prepare for potential provocations by North Korea.

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