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(LEAD) U.N. Command proposes general-level talks with N. Korea

All Headlines 10:00 November 24, 2010

(ATTN: UPDATES with quotes, details from para 3)

SEOUL, Nov. 24 (Yonhap) -- The U.S.-led United Nations Command (UNC) has proposed holding general-level military talks with North Korea to discuss the North's artillery attack on a populated South Korean island, the UNC said Wednesday.

"UNC has called for general officer-level talks with the Korean People's Army, through their Panmunjom Mission, in order to initiate an exchange of information and de-escalate the situation," the UNC said in a statement.

The UNC, which supervises an armistice agreement that ended the Korean War in 1953, also said it will investigate the North's artillery attack as part of its responsibility to maintain the truce and will determine any violations.

North Korea fired about 100 rounds of artillery onto Yeonpyeong Island near the tense Yellow Sea border on Tuesday, leaving two marines dead and 15 others wounded, five of them seriously. At least three civilians were also hurt.

In the statement, Gen. Walter Sharp, who commands both the UNC and some 28,500 U.S. troops in South Korea, strongly condemned the North's attack.

""We call upon North Korea to stop these unprovoked attacks and fully abide by the terms of the armistice agreement," Sharp said. "These actions are threatening the peace and stability of the entire region."

Sharp also hailed the South Korean military for the immediate action it took to protect its citizens on the island while responding to the North Korean attack.

"The ROK military is a professional force and its prompt action likely saved the lives of its citizens on the island following the attack," said Sharp, referring to South Korea by the acronym of its official name.

"We stand with the Republic of Korea during this crisis, firmly committed to the defense of our ally," he added.

The two Koreas are still technically at war, because the Korean War ended with a cease-fire, not a peace treaty.

kdh@yna.co.kr
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