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UPDATED: 10:17, June 04, 2004
S.Korea, DPRK reach deal to ease tension
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Photo:S. Korea, DPRK military talks
S. Korea, DPRK military talks
South Korea and the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) on Friday early morning reached an agreement at the end of the prolonged general grade military talks over a package of measures to ease tension on the Korean Peninsula.

The inter-Korean general level military talks, which started Thursday morning on the South Korean southeast Mount Seolak, were originally scheduled to end on Thursday afternoon. But the meeting was prolonged as the two sides tried to narrow their differences, and finally it made a breakthrough.

The two military delegations mapped out a series of measures to avoid accidental armed clashes in the disputed inter-Korean sea border, the Northern Limit Line (NLL), in the Yellow Sea, according to a joint statement issued after overnight marathon talks which began early Thursday.

Navies of the two countries are to set up a telephone hotline, share a radio frequency, use joint signaling systems and exchange information on checking illicit fishing around the NLL from mid-June, the statement said.

The two countries also agreed to stop propaganda loudspeaker broadcasts and dismantle propaganda signboard along the 248-kilometer Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) that separates the two sides bymid-August.

Photo:S. Korea, DPRK military talks
S. Korea, DPRK military talks
Moreover, the two sides also decided to hold lower-level military contact at the DPRK border city of Kaesong on June 10 to make preparation for a new round of general-level inter-Korean military talks.

The prolonged meeting on the South Korean mountain, some 200 kilometers southeast to Seoul, was the second of its kind. Military delegations of the two countries on the Korean Peninsula held their first general-level meeting at Mount Geumgang in the DPRK last Wednesday.

The two countries agreed to convene high-level military talks to ease tension on the Korean Peninsula and build military mutual trust in inter-Korean ministerial meeting held earlier this year.

Previously, severe differences on what action should be taken first by the two sides to effectively reduce tensions on the Korean Peninsula stalled Thursday's meeting.

South Korea suggested that priority be given to avoiding armed clashes on the NLL, as the June's crab-catching season is drawing.In order to expel illicit fishing boats, navies of the two sides in the past occasionally crossed the NLL.

But, the DPRK side insisted that both sides first stop propaganda loudspeaker broadcasts along the border.

Navies of the two countries clashed around the controversial inter-Korean sea border both in June of 1999 and 2002, which resulted in heavy casualties on both sides.

The DPRK does not accept the conception of the NLL, as it was unilaterally drawn by the US-led United Nations Command after the Korean War (1950-1953).

In Thursday's talks, the DPRK negotiators renewed their stance that the inter-Korean sea border should be farther south. While the South Korean side maintained that the UN-demarcated border should be kept.

After releasing the joint statement, the DPRK delegates, who arrived in Seolak mountain Thursday morning aboard vehicles acrossthe DMZ, left the meeting venue for home via the same route.

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