News / Asia

Rare Officers Meeting Held in the Korean DMZ

Colonels of the U.S. military and their counterparts from North Korea's Army have held a rare meeting at the truce village, Panmunjom.

Officials with the United Nations Command in Seoul say the Thursday morning meeting in the demilitarized zone lasted about 90 minutes.  It was intended to be a preliminary discussion to clear the way for talks between generals of the two sides.

The American officers were representing the United Nations command, which, since 1953, has monitored the armistice agreement that ended fighting in the Korean War.

The rare talks are the first to be held since the South Korean warship, the Cheonan, exploded and sank in the Yellow Sea on March 26.

The U.N. Command last month proposed military talks with North Korea to review the findings of the international investigation into the sinking and to start dialog.

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The North Koreans initially refused, then announced last Friday they would agree to talks, Tuesday.  But Tuesday morning, just two hours before the discussion was to begin, the North Koreans asked for a postponement for administrative reasons.

Details about the substance of the talks have not been released.

Discussions between the U.S.-led U.N. Command and the North Korean military have been held, from time to time, since 1998.  The meetings are meant to lessen tension on the Korean peninsula where no peace treaty has been signed since full-scale war was halted, 57 years ago.

If a new set of talks between general officers is realized, it will be the 17th round.

The current discussions come following the U.N. Security Council's release of a statement last Friday condemning the attack on the Cheonan. The statement, watered down under pressure from China, did not explicitly blame North Korea for the attack. Pyongyang has denied any responsibility.

The United States and South Korea are preparing to hold joint air and sea drills off the west and east coasts of South Korea.

China has protested plans for such maneuvers in the Yellow Sea, saying they could inflame tension in the region.  North Korea warns that any "accident" during the drills could re-ignite war.

South Korea's military says the drills are necessary to train its forces in case of further provocations by the North.

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