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North, South Korean generals hold rare talks

North and South Korean generals began talks on Thursday on how to reduce military tensions and build confidence to help improve cross-border relations, a South Korean official said.
/ Source: Reuters

North and South Korean generals began rare talks on Thursday on reducing military tensions and building confidence to help improve cross-border ties, a South Korean official said.

Lower-level, but senior, military officers from the two sides met last month at a border truce village and agreed on resuming the generals’ talks, which had been suspended since June, 2004.

Efforts to reduce military tensions between the North and South, which remain technically at war, have lagged behind improving political and economic ties in recent years.

Generals from the two sides met at the Panmunjom truce village, a South Korean Defense Ministry official said by telephone. Panmunjom is at the heart of the heavily fortified Demilitarized Zone frontier and has conference buildings that straddle the border.

There were two rare rounds of general-level talks in 2004 that resulted in an agreement on measures to prevent deadly naval clashes, but generals had not met formally since then.

Naval clashes in fishing grounds in the Yellow Sea in past years have killed or wounded scores of sailors on both sides.

Improvements on such measures and on developing joint fishing zones were on the agenda for the generals.

South Korean officials have said more confidence-building measures are needed to ensure military tension does not get in the way of growing commercial ties across the border.

One example of this is what South Korean analysts say is lagging support from the North’s military for linking railways through the border and making road travel less cumbersome.