North and South Korea agree to restore military communication lines

North and South Korea have agreed to fully restore their cross-border communication lines after holding rare high-level military talks on reducing tensions.

The military officials also discussed temporarily disarming an area in their jointly controlled truce village of Panmunjom, where soldiers from the North and South stand several feet from each other across the demarcation line that divides their countries, South Korea’s Defence Ministry said.

It was not immediately clear whether North Korean officials brought up the South’s military drills with the US during the talks at Panmunjom.

South Korean Major General Kim Do-gyun, second left, arrives for the meeting in Panmunjom (South Korea Defence Ministry/AP)

US President Donald Trump said after his summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un on Tuesday that the allies should stop the war games while nuclear negotiations are being held in “good faith”.

South Korea’s presidential office has said it is trying to discern Mr Trump’s meaning and intent, but also that the allies should explore various ways to “further facilitate” dialogue with the North.

Seoul’s Defence Ministry said the military talks focused on implementing the agreements at an earlier summit between Mr Kim and South Korean President Moon Jae-in, in which they vowed to reduce military tensions and eliminate the danger of war.

The discussions were the first general-level talks between the militaries since December 2007.

South Korea had pushed hard for the restoration of the military communication lines, which it says will be valuable in defusing crises.

Major General Kim Do-gyun, left, shakes hands with Lieutenant General An Ik San (South Korea Defence Ministry/AP)

North Korea in February 2016 shut down a line that had been used for military communication around the western coast of the peninsula to protest at South Korea’s decision to shut down a North Korean factory park that had been jointly operated by the countries. The South had been reacting to a North Korean nuclear test.

The communication line was partially restored in January following the North’s diplomatic outreach to the South ahead of February’s South Korean Winter Olympics.

During Thursday’s meeting, the military officials also agreed to restore a military communication line along the eastern coat that the North shut down in 2011.

Possible trust-building steps discussed between the military officials included disarming on a “trial basis” the Joint Security Area in Panmunjom, which is the only spot in the Demilitarised Zone where the rivals’ soldiers stand almost face to face.

The area was where Mr Kim stepped across the demarcation line to greet Mr Moon for their historic summit in April.

It was also where a defecting North Korean soldier fled south last year in a hail of bullets fired by his former comrades.

South Korean Major General Kim Do-gyun told reporters before the talks that the southern delegation would “invest our best efforts to bring in a new era of peace on the Korean peninsula”.

He was greeted at a building on the northern side of Panmunjom by a North Korean delegation led by Lieutenant General An Ik San.

- Press Association


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