SEOUL — South Korean and North Korean military officials began talks Tuesday morning at the Demilitarized Zone, the first meeting between the two countries since the North’s deadly bombardment of a South Korean island less than three months ago.

A North Korean delegation crossed the DMZ before the meeting began at 10 a.m. on the South Korean side of the border. Three representatives from each country’s military are attending the closed-door session to set a date and agenda for higher-level military talks, intended to ease tensions on the peninsula and prevent further provocations, a spokesman for South Korea’s Ministry of National Defense said Monday.

Tuesday’s meeting comes after one of the most tumultuous periods between the two nations since the Korean War.

North Korea launched an artillery strike against the South’s Yeonpyeong Island on Nov. 23, killing two civilians and two 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. North Korea has repeatedly denied any involvement in the attack.

South Korea has held a number of military exercises in response to the incidents, several of which included participation by U.S. forces. South Korean president Lee Myung-bak, who has been criticized for not responding more forcefully to the attacks, has said the South will retaliate with airstrikes to future North Korean provocations.

North Korea then threatened the South with nuclear war. But since the New Year, the North has called for talks with the South.

In a television interview last week, Lee 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.

South Korea initially said North Korea had to apologize for the attacks in order for military-level talks to be held, but later reversed its stance. The MND spokesman said Monday that the South wants to see if the North is sincere about improving relations between the two countries and will eventually apologize.

The U.N. Command, which is headed by a U.S. general, will facilitate the crossing at the heavily-guarded border.

if(typeof(dstb)!= "undefined"){ dstb();}

if(typeof(dstb)!= "undefined"){ dstb();}

if(typeof(dstb)!= "undefined"){ dstb();}

Sign Up for Daily Headlines

Sign up to receive a daily email of today's top military news stories from Stars and Stripes and top news outlets from around the world.

Sign Up Now