07/26/2007, 00.00
NORTH KOREA - SOUTH KOREA

Dispute over sea boundaries scuttles talks

Pyongyang abandons negotiations, the highest level of military talks since the end of the Korean War, defining them “unfruitful”: sticking point the respective limits of territorial waters.

Panmunjom (AsiaNews/Agencies) – High-level military talks between North and South Korea have broken down after the two sides failed to make progress on a long-running border dispute: the chief North Korean delegate said his side walked out of the talks after concluding that they were "fruitless”. North Korea wants the sea border to the west of the Korean Peninsula to be redrawn further south. The area lies in rich fishing grounds and has been the scene of bloody naval clashes in the past.

 

The three-day talks, in the truce village of Panmunjom, are the highest-level military dialogue between the two Koreas, who have not signed a peace treaty since the 1950-53 Korean War.

 

Issues such as preventing naval clashes and providing security for joint economic projects were also on the agenda, but analysts had expected that the sea border row would dominate proceedings.

Pyongyang does not recognise the border, known as the Northern Limit Line, which was drawn up by the UN at the end of the Korean War.

“We've come to a conclusion that we don't need these fruitless talks any more," North Korean delegation leader Lt-Gen Kim Yong-chol said as the talks broke down. The South Korean delegation head, Maj-Gen Jung Seung-jo, said it was "highly regrettable that we have to wrap up the three days of talks with no concrete results”.

The talks came amid a wider improvement in North Korea's ties with the outside world.

Last week it finally shut down its Yongbyon nuclear reactor after months of negotiations. The closure was part of an international disarmament deal under which North Korea is to receive energy aid and political incentives in return for ending its nuclear programme.

 

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