Top aides to the leaders of North and South 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 Demilitarised Zone (DMZ) village, known for its sky-blue huts and grim-faced soldiers, was set for half an hour after North Korea’s previously set an ultimatum demanding that the South halt its loudspeaker propaganda broadcasts along the border or face military action.
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 United States and the North’s lone major ally, China.
South Korea’s military remained on high alert despite the announced talks, a defence 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 (0900 GMT).
“The South and the North agreed to hold contact related to the ongoing situation in South-North relations,” Kim Kyou-hyun, the presidential Blue House’s deputy national security adviser said in a televised briefing.
Pyongyang made an initial proposal on Friday for a meeting, and Seoul made a revised proposal on Saturday seeking Hwang’s attendance, Kim said.
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.
“They need to come up with some sort of an agreement where both sides have saved face. That would be the trick,” said James Kim, a research fellow at the Asan Institute for Policy Studies in Seoul.
“North Korea will probably demand that the broadcasts be cut, and they may even come to an impasse on that issue.”-AFP.
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