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Two Koreas Resume Military Talks Despite Disagreement Over Agenda

The first top-level military talks between North and South Korea in a year have had a rocky start. The meeting was intended to focus on providing security for a test of a rail line linking the two countries. But the North injected a new element into the talks, insisting on also discussing a disputed sea border. Claudia Blume reports from VOA's Asia News Center in Hong Kong.

Generals of the two Koreas who started a three-day meeting at the truce border village of Panmunjom on Tuesday said they want the talks to succeed.

The North's chief delegate, General Kim Young Chol, says it has been difficult to hold this meeting again, and that he hopes it will be a success.

South Korea's chief negotiator, General Jeong Seung-Jo, spoke in a similar vein.

Jeong says there are several inter-Korean businesses in operation, and the Korean people want these projects to succeed.

After that display of unity, however, came disagreement. The main focus of the talks was supposed to be the reopening of a cross-border rail line, which has been closed for half a century. The two Koreas have agreed to conduct a trial run on May 17, but the South first wants the North to guarantee the safe passage of the trains, which cut across the heavily fortified Demilitarized Zone.

If the Southern delegates thought the meeting's agenda had been set, however, they were wrong. North Korea insisted on also talking about the two countries' disputed sea border.

Pyongyang does not recognize the so-called Northern Limit Line in the Yellow Sea, the sea boundary drawn up by the United Nations at the end of the Korean War in 1953.

The North Koreans raised the same issue during military talks in May of last year, and those talks broke down when Seoul refused to discuss the issue.

Test runs on the reconnected rail lines were originally scheduled for last May, but Pyongyang called them off at the last minute without giving a reason.