News

Koreas Hold First Military Talks Since Island Attack

North Korean Colonel Ri Son-kwon (front R) and other North Korean officers walk south of the truce village of Panmunjom in Paju, north of Seoul, February 8, 2011
North Korean Colonel Ri Son-kwon (front R) and other North Korean officers walk south of the truce village of Panmunjom in Paju, north of Seoul, February 8, 2011

Talks led by colonels of the opposing Korean militaries were held in the border village of Panmunjom, Tuesday -- the first such encounter since last November’s fatal shelling of a South Korean island by North Korea. South Korean officials say the two sides have agreed to hold further talks Wednesday. There are hopes this will mean an easing of tensions between the two Korea's.

Defense officials say the first day of preliminary talks, in a building known as "Peace House," in the demilitarized zone spanned more than nine hours, including several breaks.

A South Korean military spokesman says the two sides are trying to narrow differences on the agenda and procedural matters to reach agreement on holding talks between higher-level officials.

Bridging the Gap

Professor Kim Young-hyun of Dungguk University’s North Korean studies department says it seems both sides are having difficulty bridging the gap.

But Kim predicts agreement Wednesday on higher-level talks, saying Pyongyang and Seoul are under pressure from their respective allies, the United States and China, to engage in greater dialogue.

South Korean media reports say Pyongyang offered no apology, as demanded by Seoul, for last November’s shelling,  nor did it take responsibility for the sinking of a South Korean warship in the Yellow Sea, 10 months ago. Instead, the North Korean officers are insisting on a broader discussion at higher-level talks to ease military tensions.

South Korean officials say apologies for last year’s lethal provocations are pre-conditions to arranging those more senior discussions.

Rights issues

As the colonels talked at Panmunjom, here in the South Korean capital, a U.S. special envoy tasked with the North Korean human rights issue was meeting with South Korean diplomats.

Ambassador Robert King
Ambassador Robert King

Ambassador Robert King terms his visit a fact-finding mission that will include hearing from North Korean defectors and others to learn about the reclusive communist state’s human rights record.

"It's extremely important for the United States, as we pursue our policies towards North Korea, to coordinate with the government of South Korea," King said. "We have a close working relationship. We're able to work together on issues. We share our analysis. We share our ideas, in terms of making progress. And, I'm grateful to say that we've had some
very good discussions while we've been here."

Food aid

The envoy declined to answer reporters’ queries on whether the talks dealt with the possible resumption of food aid to North Korea from the United States.

There have been reports that Pyongyang, through its United Nations mission in New York, has made that request.

Such U.S. assistance was halted in 2009 amid concerns about North Korea’s nuclear and missile tests.

North Korea is one of the world’s poorest countries and suffers from chronic food shortages, because of poor harvests and failures of managing its economy.

One of the South Korean diplomats whom King met on Tuesday is about to head to Beijing.  The South Korean foreign ministry says Wi Sun Lac, its top envoy on the North Korean nuclear issue, will hold talks Thursday with his Chinese counterpart, Wu Dawei.

Pyongyang’s recently acknowledged uranium program is expected to be
one of the topics.

If North Korea is able to produce highly-enriched uranium it would give the country a second way to build nuclear weapons.


Steve Herman

A veteran journalist, Steve Herman is VOA's Southeast Asia Bureau Chief and Correspondent, based in Bangkok.

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.
Turkey's Main Opposition Party Hopes for Election Breakthroughi
X
May 22, 2015 10:23 AM
Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party has sought an image change ahead of the June 7 general election. The move comes after suffering successive defeats at the hands of the Islamist-rooted AK Party, which has portrayed it as hostile to religion. Dorian Jones reports from the western city of Izmir.
Video

Video Turkey's Main Opposition Party Hopes for Election Breakthrough

Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party has sought an image change ahead of the June 7 general election. The move comes after suffering successive defeats at the hands of the Islamist-rooted AK Party, which has portrayed it as hostile to religion. Dorian Jones reports from the western city of Izmir.
Video

Video Europe Follows US Lead in Tackling ‘Conflict Minerals’

Metals mined from conflict zones in places like the Democratic Republic of Congo are often sold by warlords to buy weapons. This week European lawmakers voted to force manufacturers to prove that their supply chains are not inadvertently fueling conflicts and human rights abuses. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Class Tackles Questions of Race, Discrimination

Unrest in some U.S. cities is more than just a trending news item at Ladue Middle School in St. Louis, Missouri. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, it’s a focus of a multicultural studies class engaging students in wide-ranging discussions about racial tensions and police aggression.
Video

Video Mind-Controlled Prosthetics Are Getting Closer

Scientists and engineers are making substantial advances towards the ultimate goal in prosthetics – creation of limbs that can be controlled by the wearer’s mind. Thanks to sophisticated sensors capable of picking up the brain’s signals, an amputee in Iceland is literally bringing us one step closer to that goal. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Afghan Economy Sinks As Foreign Troops Depart

As international troops prepare to leave Afghanistan, and many foreign aid groups follow, Afghans are grappling with how the exodus will affect the country's fragile economy. Ayesha Tanzeem reports from the Afghan capital, Kabul.
Video

Video Poverty, Ignorance Force Underage Girls Into Marriage

The recent marriage of a 17-year old Chechen girl to a local police chief who was 30 years older and already had a wife caused an outcry in Russia and beyond. The bride was reportedly forced to marry and her parents were intimidated into giving their consent. The union spotlighted yet again the plight of many underage girls in developing countries. Zlatica Hoke reports poverty, ignorance and fear are behind the practice, especially in Asia and Africa.
Video

Video South Korea Marks Gwangju Uprising Anniversary

South Korea this week marked the 35th anniversary of a protest that turned deadly. The Gwangju Uprising is credited with starting the country’s democratic revolution after it was violently quelled by South Korea’s former military rulers. But as Jason Strother reports, some observers worry that democracy has recently been eroded.
Video

Video California’s Water System Not Created To Handle Current Drought

The drought in California is moving into its fourth year. While the state's governor is mandating a reduction in urban water use, most of the water used in California is for agriculture. But both city dwellers and farmers are feeling the impact of the drought. Some experts say the state’s water system was not created to handle long periods of drought. Elizabeth Lee reports from Ventura County, an agricultural region just northwest of Los Angeles.
Video

Video How to Clone a Mammoth: The Science of De-Extinction

An international team of scientists has sequenced the complete genome of the woolly mammoth. Led by the Swedish Museum of Natural History in Stockholm, the work opens the door to recreate the huge herbivore, which last roamed the Earth 4,000 years ago. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble considers the science of de-extinction and its place on the planet
Video

Video Blind Boy Defines His Life with Music

Cole Moran was born blind. He also has cognitive delays and other birth defects. He has to learn everything by ear. Nevertheless, the 12-year-old has had an insatiable love for music since he was born. VOA’s June Soh introduces us to the young phenomenal harmonica player.

VOA Blogs