The two Koreas will hold working-level military talks next week in the border village of Panmunjom, a South Korean Defense Ministry official said Thursday, amid fresh warnings from Pyongyang over disputed coastal waters.
The talks will follow up on agreements reached at high-level military talks earlier this month, the official said on condition of anonymity, citing ministry protocol.
At the earlier negotiations, the rival neighbors adopted a security agreement for a historic test-run of a train service across their heavily armed border. The test, which happened two weeks ago, marked the first time trains have crossed the tightly sealed border since the 1950-53 Korean War.
During the discussions, North Korea also raised the issue of sea border disputes, and that issue was expected to play a key role in the new talks beginning June 8, after fresh warnings about a possible clash from North Korea.
The North's navy command has warned that a skirmish along the disputed maritime border in the Yellow Sea — the scene of deadly clashes in 1999 and 2002 — could occur unless Seoul stops entering the North's waters.
On Wednesday, North Korea's Navy Command warned in a press release that its sailors were patrolling "with a high degree of vigilance," according to a dispatch carried by the North's official Korean Central News Agency.
"The reckless military provocations of the above-said warmongers pushed the situation in the waters off the West coast to such an extreme pitch of tension that a new armed clash may break out there any moment," it said.
Waters in high demand in crab-catching season
North Korea doesn't recognize the current sea border demarcated by the United Nations at the end of the Korean War, and has long claimed it should be further south.
The waters around the border are rich fishing grounds, and boats from the two Koreas often jostle for position during the May-June crab-catching season.
The earlier talks included two-star generals and were the first high-level military contacts between the two sides in a year.
The announcement about next week's talks was made separately from ongoing Cabinet-level negotiations being held by the two Koreas in Seoul. Those talks are scheduled to end Friday and are aimed at various reconciliation efforts.