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North, South Korea Agree on Measures Aimed at Reducing Border Tensions - 2004-06-04


North and South Korea have agreed on measures to ease tensions along their border at the end of their second round of military talks Friday.

Military officials from the two Koreas on Friday set-up measures to avoid naval clashes along their common, but disputed, maritime border.

The breakthrough came after long discussions Thursday night at South Korea's Mount Seorak resort.

Colonel Yoo Young Chul, a spokesman for the North Korean military delegation, says the two sides will not take improper action against each other's fishing or navy vessels.

Both sides agreed to set up a telephone hotline, to share a radio frequency and signaling system for their naval patrol boats, and to exchange information on illegal fishing in the area.

Clashes have previously occurred in the Yellow Sea during the crab catching season, which is already under way. One such skirmish in June 2002 killed six South Korean sailors.

The two Koreas also agreed on steps to ease tension along their heavily fortified land border, including removing signboards, loudspeakers and other propaganda tools.

Colonel Moon Sung-mook, with the South Korean delegation, says to remove misunderstanding and distrust between North and South Korean soldiers, both sides agreed to end propaganda activity along the border.

But the military delegations did not discuss the issue of North Korea's nuclear weapons development during the talks.

South Korea, the United States, Russia, Japan and China have been pressing Pyongyang to end its nuclear programs - which violate international accords. Pyongyang insists that it has the right to defend itself against what is says is a hostile U.S. foreign policy.

North and South Korea are still technically at war after the Korean War ended in 1953 without a peace treaty. The talks this week mark only the second high-level military exchange between the two countries since then.