Tuesday, February 8, 2011

S Korea begin talks to N Korea To ease tensions

The two Koreas have launched a preliminary round of military talks in a bid to ease tensions on the Korean Peninsula, for the first time since the deadly exchange of fire between the two neighbors in November.

North and South Korean military officers began the talks at the truce village of Panmunjom on the heavily fortified border on Tuesday, said a South Korean defense ministry spokesman.

The closed-door discussions were to focus mainly on preparations for high-level military talks, possibly between defense ministers, at a date yet to be fixed, AFP reported.

Relations have turned icy between Seoul and Pyongyang since South Korea accused the North of torpedoing a warship near the disputed Yellow Sea border, killing 46 sailors in May.

Pyongyang, however, denied it sank the vessel, and said the South provoked the shelling of Yeonpyeong Island by firing artillery rounds into its water during a military drill.

The November 23 bombardment of South Korea's Yeonpyeong Island near the border, which killed two marines and two civilians, also sparked fears of war.

Seoul staged a series of joint military drills with US after the shelling and began fortifying Yeonpyeong and four other "frontline" islands and reinforcing marines posted there.

Under pressure from Washington and Beijing -- the South and North's respective main allies -- the Asian neighbors have toned down their combative rhetoric and agreed to talk.



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