Seoul, June 14 (IANS) The two Koreas agreed on Thursday to completely restore their military communication lines during their first general-grade military talks in more than a decade, according to a joint statement.
North and South Korea also exchanged opinions on demilitarising the inter-Korean truce village of Panmunjom on a “trial basis” and agreed to thoroughly implement a 2004 bilateral agreement on preventing accidental clashes in the West Sea, Yonhap news agency reported.
The marathon talks were held at Tongilgak, a North Korean building in Panmunjom, to follow up on the April 27 inter-Korean summit declaration that calls for joint efforts to alleviate military tensions and “practically eliminate the danger of war.”
Major Gen. Kim Do-gyun led South Korea’s five-member delegation, while the North’s side was represented by Lt. Gen. An Ik-san.
The two sides also discussed halting all hostile acts against each other, turning the Northern Limit Line — a de facto sea border — into a peace sea and other issues that the April declaration touched on to reduce military tensions.
In addition, they discussed the issue of recovering the remains of those in the Demilitarised Zone who died during the 1950-53 Korean War.
The restoration of the communication lines was seen as a key confidence-building gesture. North and South Korea partially restored the military line on the west coast this year, but the one on the east coast remained blocked since May 2011.
At the talks, the two sides reaffirmed their will to uphold the 2004 agreement to prevent clashes in the West Sea, a move to facilitate efforts to build a maritime peace zone.
Contrary to earlier expectations, the two sides appeared to have failed to reach a consensus over establishing hotlines between their top commanders and holding talks between their Defence Ministers, which have not been held since November 2007.
But the two sides agreed to continue to discuss those issues.
According to Yonhap, the North “demanded suspension of joint military drills between South Korea and the US” during the talks. Seoul reportedly responded by saying that “it was a matter to be resolved through the process of building mutual trust”, adding that “related discussions were underway” between Seoul and Washington.
“The fact that the military authorities of South and North Korea held such dialogue is itself meaningful,” said Major Gen. Kim Do-gyun.
“Today, we exchanged our views in various ways over the measures to implement the military part (of the April summit agreement) and have reached significant agreement,” he added without going into details.
The talks came amid an inter-Korean detente and a thaw in relations between the US and the North.
The meeting was originally set to take place in May, but the two Koreas failed to set a date that month due to Pyongyang’s protest against the Air Force exercise between Seoul and Washington.