North wanted military talks with Washington

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North wanted military talks with Washington

As it was peppering Seoul with requests for talks, North Korea was also attempting to get the U.S. to agree to a one-on-one dialogue last month.

A South Korean government official said Saturday that North Korea sent a statement from Minister of Defense Kim Yong-chun to his U.S. counterpart Robert Gates on Jan. 25, requesting high-level military talks between the North and the United States. The statement was delivered to the U.S. Embassy in China, the official said.

North Korea had suggested the two parties discuss denuclearization, the recovery of the remains of U.S. soldiers killed in the North during the Korean War and measures to ease military tension along the Northern Limit Line off the west coast of the Korean Peninsula. The request was made just five days after a similar statement was sent to South Korea’s Minister of National Defense Kim Kwan-jin.

The North’s request was met with flat refusal from the U.S., which reiterated its stance that inter-Korean talks should come ahead of any other international engagement, the official said.

The U.S. added that any discussion of lessening military tension on the maritime border should be taken up with the United Nations Command Military Armistice Commission, which has been in operation since the end of the Korean War in 1953.

Although its official media frequently bashes the U.S., referring to it as an enemy force, North Korea wants better ties with the U.S. to ensure the power transition from Kim Jong-il to his youngest son, Kim Jong-un, is smooth. The U.S. has remained firm that the two Koreas speak with each other first.

The two Koreas attempted dialogue on Feb. 8 and 9, but those working-level military talks ended abruptly when the North Korean delegation stormed out before working out the details of potential high-level talks. The North’s delegation bolted after proclaiming Pyongyang had nothing to do with the sinking of a South Korean naval warship last March. South Korea has demanded “responsible action” from the North for the attack.

Poor relations with South Korea and the U.S. may push North Korea into another act of provocation, possibly a third nuclear test. South Korean media has reported that North Korea is digging tunnels at its Musudan-ri launch facility in Punggye-ri, North Hamgyong Province.

By Christine Kim []

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북, 지난달 美측에 군사회담 제의

북한이 지난달 미국에 고위급 군사회담을 제의했지만, 미측은 거부한 것으로 확인됐다.

정부 소식통은 19일 "지난달 25일 북한이 김영춘 인민무력부장 명의로 로버트 게이츠 미 국방장관 앞으로 북-미 고위급 군사회담을 제의한 것으로 안다"고 밝혔다.

북측은 회담 의제로 서해 북방한계선(NLL)을 둘러싼 군사적 긴장완화 방안과 비핵화 문제, 북한 내 미군 유해 발굴 문제 등을 제시한 것으로 알려졌다.

북측은 주중 미 대사관을 통해 이 같은 제의를 통보한 것으로 전해졌다.

북측의 회담 제의는 지난달 20일 김영춘 인민무력부장 명의로 김관진 국방장관 앞으로 남북 고위급 군사회담을 제의한 지 닷새만이다.

미측은 그러나 북-미대화에 앞서 남북대화가 선행돼야 하며, 군사적 긴장완화 방안 등은 북미 고위급 군사회담이 아닌 군사정전위원회 체제를 통해 협의해야 할 사안이라며 최근 북측에 거부 통보를 한 것으로 알려졌다.

남북은 고위급 군사회담을 위한 군사실무회담을 지난 8~9일 개최했지만, 북측이 천안함 폭침에 대해 "특대형 모략극"이라며 기존 주장을 굽히지 않아 결렬됐다.

소식통은 "북측의 북-미 고위급 군사회담 제의와 이에 대한 거부 방침을 미측이 우리 정부에도 통보한 것으로 안다"고 말했다.

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