Two Koreas hold working-level military talks

September 13, 2018

SEOUL, Sept. 13 (Yonhap) — The two Koreas held working-level military talks Thursday to discuss details of a comprehensive agreement to flesh out the military part of their April summit accord aimed at reducing border tensions and building mutual trust.

The meeting began at 10 a.m. at Tongilgak, a North Korea-controlled building in the truce village of Panmunjom within the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) separating the two Koreas. Pyongyang recently made the proposal for the talks, which Seoul accepted later.

Army Col. Cho Yong-geun led South Korea’s three-member delegation, while the North’s side was led by Col. Om Chang-nam.

During the talks, the two sides discussed the idea of setting up a West Sea zone around the Northern Limit Line (NLL), a tense de facto maritime border, where the entry of warships and live-fire exercises would be banned, a Seoul official said on condition of anonymity.

The discussion appears to be part of efforts to enforce the April summit agreement to turn the areas around the NLL into a “maritime peace zone” in order to prevent accidental military clashes and guarantee safe fishing activities.

The waters around the NLL have been the peninsula’s major flash point. There were armed naval clashes in 1999, 2002 and 2009. In 2010, Pyongyang carried out two deadly attacks near the NLL that killed a total of 50 South Koreans, including two civilians.

Pyongyang had long disputed the sea line on the grounds that it was drawn unilaterally by the then-U.S.-led U.N. Command after the end of the 1950-53 Korean War. The communist state wants the NLL to be redrawn further south.

The two sides were also expected to discuss a series of issues, such as withdrawing DMZ guard posts on a trial basis, carrying out a joint project to excavate Korean War remains in the buffer zone and disarming the Joint Security Area in Panmunjom.

The results of the talks are likely to be included in the envisioned military agreement, which is expected to be officially adopted by President Moon Jae-in and his North Korean counterpart Kim Jong-un during their third summit slated to occur in Pyongyang from Sept. 18-20.

During the July 31 general-grade talks, Seoul and Pyongyang shared the understanding in “broad terms” over the issues of fostering peace in the DMZ in line with the April summit agreement to transform the border area into a “peace zone.”

Also during the working-level meeting, Seoul is likely to push for the establishment of a joint military committee and a direct communication line between the military leaders of the two Koreas, which will probably be included in the military agreement, a source said.

South Korean (L) and North Korean officials hold working-level military talks at the truce village of Panmunjom on Sept. 13, 2018, in this photo provided by Seoul's defense ministry. (Yonhap)

South Korean (L) and North Korean officials hold working-level military talks at the truce village of Panmunjom on Sept. 13, 2018, in this photo provided by Seoul’s defense ministry. (Yonhap)

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