SEOUL — South Korean and North Korean military officials failed to reach agreement Tuesday on an agenda for future higher-level military meetings during all-day talks at the Demilitarized Zone. However, both sides met again Wednesday morning for a second day of talks.
Three representatives from each country’s military met in closed-door morning and afternoon sessions from 10 a.m. to about 8 p.m. Tuesday, a Ministry of National Defense spokesman said. It was the first meeting between the two countries since the North shelled South Korea’s Yeonpyeong Island in late November. The two sides are trying to set a date and agenda for military talks in hopes of diffusing tensions on the peninsula and preventing further provocations.
A major point of contention during the meetings was whether future talks would include discussion of North Korea’s responsibility for the island attack and the torpedo sinking of a South Korean warship last March, according to a MND press release.
South Korea said that for talks to progress, North Korea must acknowledge its role in the two incidents, which left 50 South Koreans dead, and pledge to cease further provocations. North Korea, which has denied involvement in the ship sinking, said South Korea’s insistence on getting a North Korean apology for the two attacks was equal to refusing further talks, the press release said.
Wednesday’s meetings were requested by North Korea, the press release said.
This week’s meetings come after one of the most tumultuous periods between the two nations since the Korean War.
North Korea launched an artillery strike against Yeonpyeong on Nov. 23, killing two civilians and two South Korean marines. The North claimed the attack was provoked by an ongoing South Korean military exercise, though South Korea claims it never fired toward the North.
A few months earlier, a South Korean-led international investigation, which included analysts from the U.S., Australia, the United Kingdom and Sweden, found that a North Korean submarine came into South Korean waters on March 26 and fired a torpedo, splitting the South Korean warship Cheonan in half and killing 46 sailors.
Following months of belligerence, Pyongyang has recently set a more conciliatory tone, leading many experts here to believe the talks to be a subtle strategy to receive more aid, according to a Los Angeles Times report.
“North Korea wants food, and they want to move to high-level talks,” Choi Jin-wook, a senior research fellow at the Korea Institute of National Unification, told the Los Angeles Times. “They want it sooner than later because they need the food immediately. They are also hoping these talks would again build the relationship between the two Koreas.”
In a television interview last week, South Korean President Lee Myung-bak said that an inter-Korean summit is possible if the North ceases its pattern of committing provocations and then demanding food aid in return for peace.