x

Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 18 June 2018

Koreas holding military talks to reduce tensions on border

North could seek South's firm commitment to end military drills with the United States 

South Korea's chief delegate Major General Kim Do-gyun (L) shakes hands with his North Korean counterpart Lieutenant General An Ik-san during the first high-level inter-Korean military talks in more than 10 years at the truce village of Panmunjom, in the Demilitarised Zone between North and South Korea. Yonhap / EPA
South Korea's chief delegate Major General Kim Do-gyun (L) shakes hands with his North Korean counterpart Lieutenant General An Ik-san during the first high-level inter-Korean military talks in more than 10 years at the truce village of Panmunjom, in the Demilitarised Zone between North and South Korea. Yonhap / EPA

The rival Koreas were holding rare high-level military talks on Thursday to discuss reducing tensions across their heavily fortified border.

It's possible North Korean officials during the talks at the border village of Panmunjom will seek a firm commitment from the South on stopping its military drills with the United States.

President Donald Trump said after his summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un on Tuesday that the allies should stop the war games during nuclear negotiations in "good faith." South Korea's presidential office has said it's trying to discern Mr Trump's meaning and intent, but also that the allies should explore various ways to "further facilitate" dialogue with the North.

Seoul's Defense Ministry said the military talks will focus on carrying out agreements from a summit between Kim and South Korean President Moon Jae-in where they vowed to take materialised steps to reduce military tensions and eliminate the danger of war.

The discussions are the first general-level talks between the militaries since December 2007.

_________

Read more:

Pompeo moves to reassure allies as glow from Singapore summit fades

Trump says historic summit ended North Korea nuclear threat

__________

"We will invest our best efforts to bring in a new era of peace on the Korean Peninsula," South Korean Maj. Gen. Kim Do-gyun told reporters before the talks.

At a building on the northern side of Panmunjom, the South Korean officials were greeted by a North Korean delegation led by Lt. Gen. An Ik San, who joked that he was "very jealous" of the major general who probably was the first Korean soldier to cross the military demarcation line that bisects the Koreas by foot and while wearing a uniform. It wasn't immediately clear whether Lt. Gen. An was right.

"I am sure that delegation chief Kim has firmly registered himself to the Guinness Book (of World Records) on the history of our nation's unification," the lieutenant general said. Mr Kim replied he was honoured to meet Lt. Gen. An and expressed hope for a meaningful breakthrough in the talks.

The Korean military officials may discuss holding military talks on a regular basis and establishing a hotline between their top military officials. They may also discuss efforts to recover the remains of soldiers missing and presumed dead from the 1950-53 Korean War.

Also on Thursday top diplomats from the United States, South Korea, and Japan promised to work together to ensure North Korea gives up its nuclear weapons programme.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, South Korean Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-wha and Japanese Foreign Minister Taro Kono met in Seoul two days after Mr Trump and Mr Kim signed a statement agreeing to pursue the denuclearisation of the Korean peninsula.

Mr Pompeo insisted that Pyongyang was committed to giving up its nuclear arsenal but said it would "be a process, not an easy one".