Koreas Hold Talks to Ease Tension

Koreas Hold Talks to Ease TensionKoreas Hold Talks to Ease Tension

Top aides to the leaders of South and North Korea met at the Panmunjom truce village straddling their border on Saturday, raising hopes for an end to a standoff that put the rivals on the brink of armed conflict.

The meeting at the Demilitarized Zone village was set for half an hour after North Korea’s previously set ultimatum demanding that the South halt its loudspeaker propaganda broadcasts along the border or face military action, Reuters reported.

That deadline passed without any reported incidents.

Tension on the Korean Peninsula has been running high since an exchange of artillery fire on Thursday, prompting calls for calm from the United Nations, the US and China.

South Korea’s military remained on high alert despite the announced talks, a defense official said.

South Korean President Park Geun-hye’s national security adviser and her unification minister met Hwang Pyong So, the top military aide to the North’s leader Kim Jong-un, and a senior official who handles inter-Korean affairs at 6 p.m. Seoul time.

Pyongyang made an initial proposal on Friday for a meeting and Seoul made a revised proposal on Saturday, seeking Hwang’s attendance.

 Rare Recognition

The North’s KCNA news agency also announced the meeting, referring to the South as the Republic of Korea, a rare formal recognition of its rival state, in sharp contrast to the bellicose rhetoric in recent days.

North Korea, technically still at war with the South after their 1950-53 conflict ended in a truce, not a peace treaty, had declared a “quasi-state of war” in frontline areas and set the deadline for Seoul to halt the broadcasts from loudspeakers placed along the border.

Seoul had said it would continue the broadcasts unless the North accepted responsibility for landmine explosions this month in the DMZ that wounded two South Korean soldiers. Pyongyang denies it planted the mines.

North-South ties have been virtually frozen since the deadly 2010 sinking of a South Korean warship. North Korea denies it was involved.