News / Asia

North Korea, US to Hold Warship Talks

Senior officers from the U.S.-led United Nations Command and North Korea are expected to meet Tuesday to discuss the recent sinking of a South Korean warship.  The United Nations Command said Monday the meeting will be at the truce village of Panmunjom in the Demilitarized Zone.

North Korea had initially rejected the U.N. Command's request to discuss possible violations of the 1953 truce that ended the Korean War.However, Pyongyang changed its stance after Seoul rejected its proposal to send a military team to inspect the Cheonan, which sank after an explosion in March.

An international investigation blamed a North Korean torpedo for sinking the South Korean navy ship, killing 46 sailors. North Korea denies responsibility.

Pyongyang is likely to maintain that position Tuesday's meeting Tuesday, said Baek Seung-joo with the Korea Institute for Defense Analyses.  He said he expects the North's delegation to criticize the conclusion of the investigation holding North Korea responsible, calling into question the scientific evidence. However, the meeting could clear the way for higher-level talks between the two sides, he added.

The U.N. Security Council has condemned the attack on the Cheonan, but did not directly blame North Korea. Pyongyang hailed the U.N. statement as a "great diplomatic victory."

Seoul expressed satisfaction with the Security Council statement but also reiterated its call for North Korea to apologize and demonstrate its willingness to give up its nuclear weapons programs.

The sinking of the Cheonan significantly raised tensions on the peninsula.

The delegates at Tuesday talks will be colonels, who are expected to prepare for a meeting of generals. The last talks between generals were in March 2009. The talks have been held 16 times since they were instituted in 1998 as a confidence-building measure.

In response to the Cheonan sinking, the South Korean and U.S. navies plan joint maneuvers, although they have not announced the date and location of the exercise.

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