North and South Korea to hold first military talks for two years
Published 29/09/2010 | 11:01
North Korea will hold military talks with South Korea on Thursday for the first time in two years in a bid to calm tensions across their shared border.
A meeting involving three officers from each side will take place at the border village of Panmunjom, which lies on the northern side of the demarcation line that splits the two countries.
The meeting comes as Kim Jong-un, the 28-year-old third son of Kim Jong-il, was promoted to be a four-star general and also to be one of the two vice-chairmen of North Korea's Central Military Commission, a key role that places him squarely in line to succeed his father.
Kim Jong-il, 68, serves as chairman of the 19-member commission, and Ri Yong Ho, the chief of the General Staff of the Korean People's Army is the other vice chairman. For now, however, Ri will outrank the younger Kim, after he was made a vice marshal.
The younger Kim was promoted at the first meeting of the North Korean Workers' Party for nearly 45 years, which took place in Pyongyang on Tuesday.
The military talks between the two sides were initiated by Pyongyang, according to Yonhap, the South Korean news agency. The North Korean army wants to discuss the sea border between the two countries, known as the Northern Limit Line, and is seeking to have it redrawn further south.
Relations between North and South Korea have been acutely tense since the sinking of a South Korean warship, the Cheonan, near the border in March. South Korea has accused North Korea of torpedoing the ship and causing the deaths of 46 sailors.
Naval clashes between the two countries have taken place along the Northern Limit Line in 1999, 2002 and 2009.
The news of the latest talks has been met with some cynicism in the South, where officials said that North Korea cycles through acts of provocation, and then talks aimed at securing concessions.
Meanwhile, South Korea's National Intelligence Service has confirmed a recent claim that the North Korean army has stockpiled one million tons of rice to feed its troops while the rest of the country is struggling with mass starvation. Several members of the South Korean parliament's National Assembly Intelligence Committee told the Chosun Ilbo that a senior NIS officer had told them the claim was "well-founded".