Details of talks spilled by North
Pyongyang disclosed details about the recent secretive inter-Korean military meeting, prompting South Korea to respond with its own details yesterday.
The North’s official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) revealed Thursday what it alleged was inappropriate measures of South Korea towards Pyongyang and mentioned details of what was discussed in the bilateral military talks at the truce village of Panmunjom Wednesday. A 9,700-character article said that Pyongyang proposed a meeting with Kim Kwan-jin, chief of the National Security Office and Vice Marshal Hwang Pyong-so, but the South Korean side refused the proposal.
Instead, Seoul sent Lt. Gen. Ryu Je-seung, head of the National Defense Policy Office, as the representative for the southern side, basically downgrading the talks, the North said.
The report, entitled, “Revealing the truth about the unfair treatment that casts a dark shadow over the improving atmosphere of North-South relations,” further alleged that it was the South that proposed a secret meeting and then leaked parts of the talks through its news media.
This is the first time Pyongyang disclosed details of inter-Korean discussions in such a unilateral manner since the onset of the Park Geun-hye administration and the affair leads to questions about the reason in doing so.
Several hours after the article was published, the South’s Ministry of National Defense expressed “regret” that North Korea disclosed such details along with “distorting them.”
And yesterday, it went further to counter some allegations by revealing new details of what was discussed by the two delegations.
The two Koreas held a furtive five-hour military meeting at the truce village of Panmunjom on Wednesday, and Pyongyang’s delegation was led by North Korean Gen. Kim Yong-chol, director of the Reconnaissance General Bureau.
This was the first time in three years and eight months that the two countries’ military officials sat down at a negotiation table, but the Park Geun-hye administration didn’t announce it in advance and remained tight-lipped on what was discussed afterwards.
A Unification Ministry official here only explained that the North sent a proposal on Oct. 7 to have an emergency discussion about the gunfire exchange between the navies over the Northern Limit Line in the Yellow Sea earlier that day.
But yesterday, a defense official who asked to remain anonymous revealed further details of the talks - and said that the North and South contradicted each other over how the meeting came about, who should have participated and even the possibility of a second round of high-level talks initially agreed upon earlier this month.
The KCNA claimed that sending Ryu, a national defense policy official, was “an insult and mockery” of the North-South talks.
But the South Korean defense official said, “From the government’s perspective [Ryu] was a fitting counterpart to Reconnaissance General Bureau director Kim.”
South Korea’s delegation also included Kim Ki-woong, assistant minister for unification policy, and Brig. Gen. Moon Sang-gyun, director general of arms control at the Defense Ministry. The attendance of Kim, considered No. 3 in the Ministry of Unification, the local official said, signified that “even though these were military talks, North-South relations and security issues have to be dealt with as well, and we determined these talks were that important.”
The South’s defense official said that North Korea politely requested talks twice, and that Seoul agreed to a meeting after consulting with related branches.
The North claims the proposal happened at the last-minute, just an hour before the actual meeting.
The KCNA also claimed that North Korea requested the military talks to be open, while the defense official said that Seoul requested them to be closed, and the North agreed to this before the meeting. The defense official also said North Korea has not made any advances on its position of denying responsibility for the sinking of the Cheonan warship in 2010 and won’t apologize for the shelling of Yeonpyeong Island later that year.
Though Kim Yong-chol, the North Korean reconnaissance chief considered the mastermind of the sinking of the Cheonan, was present at the talks, “he did not offer any apology,” the official added.
The South’s Defense Ministry spokesman said yesterday in a briefing, “Our government through dialogue seeks to improve North-South relations and ease tensions. We look forward for the second high-level inter-Korean talks to proceed as originally agreed.”
North Korea has yet to respond to Seoul’s proposal on Monday to hold the high-level talks on Oct. 30.
Another South Korean government official called Pyongyang’s move “a means of applying pressure ahead of the second round of high-level inter-Korean talks.”
BY JEONG YONG-SOO, SARAH KIM [firstname.lastname@example.org]