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(6th LD) Two Koreas agree to completely restore military communication lines

All Headlines 23:07 June 14, 2018

(ATTN: ADDS more info in paras 11-12)

PANMUNJOM, Korea, June 14 (Joint Press Corps-Yonhap) -- The two Koreas agreed Thursday to completely restore their military communication lines during their first general-grade military talks in more than a decade, their joint statement showed.

They also exchanged opinions on demilitarizing 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.

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 Lieut. Gen. An Ik-san.

The two sides also discussed halting all hostile acts against each other; turning the Northern Limit Line (NLL), 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 Demilitarized Zone who died during the 1950-53 Korean War.

The restoration of the communication lines is seen as a key confidence-building gesture. The two sides partially restored the military line on the west coast this year, but the one on the east coast has 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 defense ministers, which have not been held since November 2007.

But the two sides agreed to continue to discuss those issues.

The North is also known to have demanded suspension of joint military drills between South Korea and the United States during the talks.

Seoul reportedly responded by saying that it is a matter to be resolved through the process of building mutual trust, adding that related discussions are underway between Seoul and Washington.

During the time when the two sides fine-tuned the wording of their joint statement, they appeared to be caught in an intense tug of war. An, the North Korean delegation chief, expressed displeasure over it at the close of the talks.

"Let's not ever have talks like this," An said angrily.

Later, the South Korean delegation chief sought to put a positive spin on the talks.

"The fact that the military authorities of South and North Korea held such dialogue is itself meaningful," Kim said.

"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 detail.

The talks came amid an inter-Korean detente and a thaw in relations between the U.S. and the North.

The meeting was originally set to take place in May, but they failed to set a date that month due to Pyongyang's protest against the annual Max Thunder air force exercise between Seoul and Washington. But during the May 26 inter-Korean summit, they fixed the date for Thursday.

This photo provided by Seoul's defense ministry shows South Korea's top delegate Major General Kim Do-gyun (R) speaking with his North Korean counterpart Lieutenant General An Ik-san before starting their first general-level talks in more than 10 years at the truce village of Panmunjom on June 14, 2018. (Yonhap)



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