07/26/2005, 00.00
SOUTH KOREA – NORTH KOREA
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Pyongyang and Seoul set up two military liaison offices

by Theresa Kim Hwa-young
Their purpose is to prevent military clashes and reduce tensions along the demilitarized zone (DMZ).

Panmunjom (AsiaNews) – The military of North and South Korea agreed on July 20 to set up liaison offices that will become operational as of August 13 of this year. The agreement was reached at Panmunjom, the village where a truce between the two sides was signed in 1953.

The South Korean delegation was headed by Colonel Moon Seong-mook, while that of the North was led by Colonel Young-cheol of the People's Armed Forces.

The two delegations also agreed to dismantle the propaganda facilities along the 248-kilometer-long DMZ.

The initiative stems from a desire to prevent unwanted armed clashes in the West Sea and reduce tensions along the DMZ that serves as border between the two Koreas.

"The establishment of the liaison offices was one of the measures agreed upon at the second round of general-level talks on June 3 last year to prevent unwanted armed clashes in the West Sea,'' Colonel Moon said.

The two sides agreed to hold another working-level negotiations on August 12 at the same venue in Panmunjom, according to the officials. The latter failed, however, to fix the date of the next meeting between higher ranking officers.

The South's Paju and the North's Kaesong are likely candidates for liaison offices for military communication.

A series of naval clashes over the years in the rich fishing grounds of the West Sea left scores of casualties on both sides.

In the latest naval clash between the two sides in 2000 six South Korean sailors were killed.

The Northern Limit Line is a controversial maritime border between the two Koreas in the West Sea. It is viewed by the South as the de facto border line, but has not been accepted by the North.

At military talks at the South's Mt Sorak in June last year, the two sides signed a landmark accord to stop propaganda loudspeakers and signboards along the border, as well as to set up a naval hotline and share a radio frequency between the two navies. Pyongyang, however, refused to heed the agreements despite Seoul's protests.

"We hope that this time, the measures will be fully implemented," Colonel Moon said.

On August 10, the two militaries will connect telephone lines along the reconnected cross-border Kyongui Railway and conduct a test call, he added.

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