Korea defence talks on joint fishing zone becalmed

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SEOUL, Nov 28 (Reuters) Defence ministers from the two Koreas are far apart on a deal for a joint fishing zone in disputed waters, the South's chief said today. The North's minister blamed the United States for problems on the peninsula.

South Korean Defence Minister Kim Jang-soo and the North's Kim Il-chol, holding the first meeting at that level in seven years, sparred yesterday over the size of the fishing zone to be located off the west coast, in the Yellow Sea.

''As you and your representatives may have realised, I feel the difference in views is large,'' the South Korean minister said at the opening of the second day of talks.

The talks aimed at reducing tension along one of the world's most heavily fortified borders are slated to end tomorrow.

The two men also sought to draw up a plan for the first regular freight train service between the rival states since the 1950-1953 Korean War, which ended inconclusively with a truce.

The North's Kim said his country was ready to work out a peace treaty to formally end the war but not before a new maritime border had been drawn and the United States had pledged non-aggression against his country.

''Efforts must be made to eradicate the US hostile policy against the North,'' Kim said. Washington has pledged not to attack North Korea.

At a summit in October, the two Koreas agreed to create an economic cooperation zone along the western sea border called the Northern Limit Line (NLL).

The NLL was set unilaterally by UN-led forces at the end of the Korean War and recognised since by the South's military as the de facto border. Pyongyang declared the line invalid in 1999.

South Korea proposed having a small, joint fishing zone on both sides of the line as a pilot project while the North said it wanted a larger zone that extended far south of the line.

In a separate development, a senior official of the North's ruling communist party is to visit the South to check implementation of the summit agreement and tour industrial facilities, Seoul government officials said today.

North Korea has a 1.2 million-strong military, most of whom are stationed near the border. The United States keeps about 28,000 soldiers in the South to support its 670,000 troops.

REUTERS SW BST1155

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