Defense talks with North for February

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Defense talks with North for February

Seoul will propose working-level inter-Korean defense talks for sometime in mid-February, officials said yesterday.

It would be the first dialogue between the two sides since the North’s deadly bombardment of a border island in November.

“We plan to make the proposal on Wednesday or Thursday,” a Ministry of National Defense official said, adding that the venue for the working-level meeting would be the truce village of Panmunjom, which sits in the middle of the heavily armed border dividing the two Koreas.

The talks are expected to be led by South Korean Col. Moon Sang-gyun and North Korean Col. Ri Son-kwon, the official said.

In its latest dialogue offensive, North Korea suggested last week that the two sides hold a meeting between senior defense officials to “resolve pending military issues.”

The South’s Defense Ministry accepted the North’s offer and proposed preceding working-level discussions, but said no decision has been made on whether there would be ministerial dialogue.

Seoul said high-level talks can be held if North Korea acknowledges its responsibility for shelling Yeonpyeong Island in November and torpedoing a warship last March.

In last week’s proposals, the North said it wants to discuss its “viewpoint” on the attacks, according to a report by its state media, the Korean Central News Agency.

North Korea has thus far denied any involvement in the torpedo attack of the Cheonan warship that killed 46 sailors, although a multinational investigation confirmed the North’s culpability.

Pyongyang has also claimed that its artillery attack on Yeonpyeong Island, in which two marines and two civilians died, was legitimate because the South provoked first by holding a life-fire drill near the island with some shells falling on the North’s side.

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