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SEOUL — North Korea has declined to meet with the United Nations Command to discuss the sinking of a South Korean ship in March, saying talks should instead be held between North Korea and South Korea, according to a UNC press release.

UNC commander Gen. Walter Sharp, who also commands U.S. troops in South Korea, on Saturday proposed holding colonel-level meetings at Panmunjom so the two sides could set an agenda for general officer-level talks about the Cheonan, according to USFK spokesman David Oten.

He said North Korea declined the request on Sunday, after which the UNC made a second request to hold the talks. Oten said he did not know if North Korea had responded to the second request.

UNC is pursuing the talks to review investigation findings on the sinking of the Cheonan, though topics of discussion had not been set, Oten said.

North Korea has repeatedly denied that it attacked the ship, although a multinational investigation team concluded last month that a North Korean torpedo sank the ship in the Yellow Sea near the disputed maritime border, killing 46 crew members.

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.

South Korea, with U.S. support, is seeking U.N. Security Council sanctions against North Korea over the March 26 sinking.

rowlanda@pstripes.osd.mil

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