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Inter Korean Military Talks Break Down Over Border Demand

Anyone got the key? The Korean Border courtesy of AFP.
by Staff Writers
Seoul, Korea (AFP) Mar 03, 2006
High-level military talks between South and North Korea broke down Friday over the North's demand that the Cold War rivals draw a new border in disputed waters in the Yellow Sea. "There was no agreement," the chief South Korean delegate Major General Han Min-Koo said, adding both sides failed even to set a date for the next meeting.

There was a brief exchange of acrimonious words when South Korean delegates blocked the North Koreans from holding their own news conference with South Korean reporters, according to pool reports.

The two-day meeting began Thursday after a 21-month hiatus to discuss steps towards reducing tensions especially in the Yellow Sea, a flashpoint in recent years for naval clashes.

Han criticized North Korea for sticking to its longstanding demand that a new maritime border be defined. "North Korea argued that a new border must be drawn off the west coast."

Though the 248-kilometre (154-mile) land border known as the demilitarized zone (DMZ) is recognized by both Koreas, the maritime border has been disputed.

North Korea insisted the sea border was unilaterally drawn by the United States and its allies in 1953 when the three-year Korean War ended in a fragile armistice.

South and North Korean navies have a history of bloody gun battles in the Yellow Sea. Since 1999, dozens of casualties have been reported on both sides. The last clash in June 2002 left six South Korean sailors dead.

North Korea also used the talks, held at the truce village of Panmunjom in the DMZ, to hit out at the United States and urge South Korea to end joint exercises with US troops.

The North's official Korean Central News Agency said that Pyongyang's chief delegate Major General Kim Yong-chul "sternly took the south side to task for its unreasonable behavior of cooperating".

South Korea rejected the North's demands and called for gradual steps to reduce tensions, such as the establishment of a joint fishing area in disputed waters.

"Our basic position is that both sides should gradually promote mutual confidence and ease tensions," Han said.

Although North Korea refuses to resume six-nation talks on curbing its nuclear weapons program, it agreed last month to resume military talks it broke off with South Korea in June 2004.

Relations have improved since a 2000 summit between leaders of the North and South set the stage for a new era of reconciliation. But military exchanges have lagged far behind economic cooperation.

Shortly after the 2000 summit, defense ministers from the two sides held landmark talks in South Korea and agreed to meet again. But the North refused to set a date for follow up talks at ministerial level even though it sent generals to two rounds of talks in 2004.

South Korea also wants to set a date for the meeting of defense ministers and move ahead with the opening of cross-border rail lines, a step that requires a security guarantee from the North Korean military.

While the rail lines, one through the western section of the border and the other across the eastern part, have not been opened, parallel roads have been in use since last year for South Koreans travelling to the North.

In two previous rounds of general-level talks, both sides agreed on tension-reducing measures including halting propaganda broadcasts along the border and setting up radio links between their navies.

Source: Agence France-Presse

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Russian Experts Predict Iranian Nuclear Bomb In Five Years
Moscow, Russia (AFP) Mar 03, 2006
Iran will have nuclear weapons within five years at the latest and the world should from now on get used to the idea, according to an experts' report due to be presented to the Russian foreign and defence policy council on Saturday.

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