U.N. Command, N. Korean officials meet to set high-level talks
SEOUL — After meeting for 90 minutes Thursday morning, officials from the United Nations Command and North Korea agreed to hold a second planning session for high-level talks about the sinking of a South Korean patrol ship, according to the UNC.
However, no dates for a future meeting were set, said UNC spokesman David Oten, though both sides have exchanged proposed dates and will confirm details after consulting with their leadership. He said it is typical for the two sides to present proposals and counterproposals when arranging the rare meetings at the Demilitarized Zone between North and South Korea.
Thursday’s colonel-level meetings at Panmunjom were the first between the two sides since the Cheonan sank March 26 during a routine patrol near the disputed maritime border between the two Koreas.
South Korea has accused North Korea of torpedoing the ship, which the North denies.
The meeting was held to set an agenda for general-level talks. The two sides were originally scheduled to meet Tuesday morning, Oten said, but North Korea postponed the meeting two hours before it was scheduled to begin for “administrative reasons,” giving no further explanation. North Korea offered to reschedule the talks the same day, according to a UNC news release.
The UNC, which is led by U.S. Forces Korea commander Gen. Walter Sharp, first proposed talks with the North on June 26. North Korea rejected the offer, but agreed July 9 to a meeting. The United Nations Security Council passed a statement that day condemning the attack on the Cheonan, though the measure did not blame North Korea for the sinking.
According to the UNC, violations of the Korean War armistice agreement are supposed to be discussed through general officer talks. Sixteen rounds of general officer talks have been held at Panmunjom since 1998, most recently in March 2009 at North Korea’s request to talk about reducing tensions on the peninsula.The UNC is conducting its own investigation into the sinking of the Cheonan, but the findings have not been released, Oten said.
The U.S. and South Korea are expected to agree to a series of new naval and air exercises next week in what the Pentagon said is a direct response to the sinking. Those war games would be “defensive in nature, but send a clear message of deterrence to North Korea,” Pentagon spokesman Geoff Morrell said Wednesday.
Defense Secretary Robert Gates and Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton will discuss the exercises during a meeting with their South Korean counterparts July 21 in Seoul. email@example.com