North and South Korea hold first talks since island attack

SEOUL: Military officials from North and South Korea on Tuesday held preliminary talks, the first since the North's attack on a South Korean border island, the Yonhap news agency reported.

The talks were intended to lay a foundation for future high-level meetings. The officials met at the border truce village of Panmunjom. The two sides discussed the agenda and process for the upcoming meeting.

"The atmosphere was serious, and there were no political arguments from the two sides," said Kim Min-seok, a spokesman at the South Korea's Defense Ministry.

Tuesday's talks were held in order to arrange the date, place and agenda for higher-level talks that will possible involve both country's Defense Ministers. However, South Korea has set demands in order to participate in the meeting.

"A higher-level military meeting will be possible only if North Korea takes responsible measures for the attacks on Yeonpyeong Island and the Cheonan warship and promises not to carry out any more provocations," added Kim.

The preliminary talks were led by Col. Moon Sang-gyun of the South and Col. Ri Son-kwon of the North. The talks ended with little progress but both sides agreed to meet again on Tuesday evening.

On November 23, 2010, an artillery attack struck Yeonpyeong Island in the disputed border. 46 sailors were killed after a torpedo hit a South Korean warship. A multinational investigation concluded that North Korea executed the torpedo attack.

However, the government led by Kim Jong-il has denied any involvement in the deadly attack of the Cheonan warship but acknowledged the artillery attack on Yeonpyeong. The North claimed that the attack was legitimate as the South provoked first by holding a live-fire drill with some shells allegedly falling in the North’s territorial waters.

The talks were proposed by North Korea in January and asked the South to select the venue and date for the meeting. The proposal came after U.S. President Barack Obama and Chinese President Hu Jintao urged the two Koreas to resume dialogue.


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