UN Command to meet North today

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UN Command to meet North today

The U.S.-led United Nations Command in Korea and North Korea agreed yesterday to hold a working-level meeting today to discuss the Cheonan incident, according to an official of the UN Command in Korea.

“As North Korea accepted a suggestion by the UN Command to hold a field-grade working-level meeting before holding a general-level meeting [between the two], we decided to hold a working-level meeting tomorrow,” said the official. The meeting, between colonel-level military personnel from the two sides, will be held at Panmunjom, a demilitarized zone that is the de facto inter-Korean border, at 10 a.m. today, the official said.

The official said the suggestion was delivered by the UN Command Military Armistice Commission to the North’s Panmunjom Mission of the Korean People’s Army on June 26. The North accepted the proposal last Friday, the official said.

The official said if a general-level meeting is held after the working-level meeting, it will explain the result of the Cheonan investigation to the North and point out that the attack is an obvious violation of the armistice. The UN Command oversees the armistice that ended the Korean War in 1953.

As part of trust-building measures, the UN Command and North Korea have held 16 general-level meetings since 1998. The latest one was held in March 2009.

A multinational investigation into the Cheonan sinking concluded in May that Pyongyang was responsible for a torpedo attack on the South Korean naval ship and the killing of 46 of its sailors. The UN Command has requested a general-level meeting with the North to describe the findings of the investigation.

Some experts said it may be a sign that tension on the Korean Peninsula will be eased. Over the weekend, the UN Security Council issued a statement condemning the Cheonan attack, though not naming North Korea as the offender. Pyongyang said it was satisfied with the statement.

It also could be a change in stance for the North, which had not responded to a call by the UN Command to have a general-level meeting about the Cheonan incident, calling it “absurd.”

But, some remain pessimistic over the result of the meeting, saying the North is expected to continue its argument that the investigation was fabricated and that it is not responsible for the incident. “It might be just a gesture to lower possible sanctions from the UN after the issuance of the statement,” a South Korean military source said.

By Moon Gwang-lip, Oh Young-hwan [joe@joongang.co.kr]
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