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(LEAD) S. Korea accepts N. Korea's military talks proposal

All Headlines 21:04 January 20, 2011

(ATTN: UPDATES with more details and background from 3rd para)

SEOUL, Jan. 20 (Yonhap) -- South Korea's government said Thursday it has decided to accept North Korea's proposal for high-ranking military talks and proposed to hold preparatory working-level military talks.

Separately, the Seoul government also decided to propose holding inter-Korean talks between high-ranking government officials from both sides to discuss the issue of denuclearization, officials said.

Earlier on Thursday, North Korea proposed holding high-level military talks with South Korea to discuss "pending" military issues between the two sides, according to Seoul's defense ministry.

The North sent a telegram signed by Kim Young-chun, minister of the People's Armed Forces, to South Korean Defense Minister Kim Kwan-jin Thursday morning, proposing that high-level officials from the two Koreas hold dialogue to resolve bilateral military pending issues, ministry officials said.

The proposal came after U.S. President Barack Obama and Chinese President Hu Jintao urged the two Koreas to resume dialogue to stop the North's provocations and nuclear weapons program after their summit meeting in Washington on Wednesday.

According to Seoul's Unification Ministry, Pyongyang proposed discussing the sinking of the South Korean warship Cheonan, blamed on North Korea, and the North's artillery attacks on the South's Yeonpyeong Island at the high-level military talks.

"The South Korean government will come to the talks to ask North Korea to take responsible measures for the torpedoing of the Cheonan and the artillery attacks on Yeonpyeong and promise not to conduct further military provocation in the future," said a Unification Ministry official.

"As the North fails to mention denuclearization in its talks proposal telegram, the (South Korean) government will propose denuclearization talks between high-ranking government officials to sound out the North's real intention on the issue," said the official.

Seoul's Deputy Defense Minister Chang Kwang-il said in an earlier media briefing, "The Koreas have usually referred to talks between generals or higher as high-level military talks. North Korea's proposal can also be interpreted as referring to minister-level talks."

"The first inter-Korean defense minister talks occurred on Jeju Island in September 2000, while the second one was held in Pyongyang in November 2007. North Korea asked South Korea to select a convenient date and venue for the proposed military talks," Chang said.


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