Inter-Korean military talks bogged down over sea border | The Daily Star
12:00 AM, November 29, 2007 / LAST MODIFIED: 12:00 AM, November 29, 2007

Inter-Korean military talks bogged down over sea border

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South and North Korean defence chiefs yesterday held a second day of talks to pave the way for reconciliation projects, but a dispute over their sea border blocked progress, pool reports from Pyongyang said.
The defence ministers' meeting, only the second ever following one in 2000, was supposed to discuss ways to ease military tensions to prepare for major joint projects including a cross-border rail service.
But reports quoting the South's spokesman said the two sides are stuck over the disputed border in the Yellow Sea, the scene of bloody naval clashes in 1999 and 2002.
They cannot agree where a proposed joint fishing area aimed at averting clashes -- to be part of a broader "peace zone" -- should be sited.
"In particular, the two sides are having difficulties in narrowing differences over the joint fishing area and the peace waters," spokesman Colonel Moon Sung-Mook was quoted as saying. "The two sides are trying to reach an agreement for the rest of the talks (which end Thursday)."
Moon said North and South failed to discuss details on ways of supporting the other projects because they were still discussing the fishing area.
South Korean Defence Minister Kim Jang-Soo had spoken of a wide gap between the two sides as Wednesday's session began.
"I don't want to return home empty-handed tomorrow. I hope the gaps will be further narrowed," he said.
North Korea wants the fishing area to be sited south of the border known as the Northern Limit Line, which it refuses to recognise. The South says it should straddle the line drawn unilaterally by United Nations forces after the 1950-53 war.
Previous lower-level military talks have broken down acrimoniously over the border issue.
The reports said South Korea has proposed steps to reduce tension, including the establishment of a joint military committee and the creation of a hotline between defence chiefs.
But the North had been focusing on sweeping measures such as declaring a formal end to the Korean War, which ended only in an armistice, they said.
"First of all, the two sides must make joint efforts to bring an end to the US policy of hostility toward the North," said North Korean defence chief Kim Il-Chol.
"The North is opposed to any acts of war or antagonistic behaviour and it will abide by its obligation of non-aggression," he said.
A historic inter-Korean summit in October agreed a variety of peace and reconciliation projects, and prime ministers from the two sides drew up more detailed plans this month.
The prime ministers agreed to start creating the fishing area in the first half of next year. The wider "peace zone" would encompass a proposed joint economic zone around Haeju, a major naval base and port in the North.
They also agreed to resume regular cross-border rail freight services on December 11, for the first time in more than half a century.
The defence ministers were to discuss military security guarantees for the services across the heavily fortified frontier.

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