North Korea expresses 'regret' at South's flood casualties

North Korea today expressed regret over its recent release of dam water that sparked flooding downstream blamed for six South Korean deaths.

North Korea today expressed regret over its recent release of dam water that sparked flooding downstream blamed for six South Korean deaths.

The two sides will discuss how to prevent such incidents on their border, officials said.

The release of dam water into the Imjin River last month without advance notice triggered floods that swept away six South Koreans who were camping and fishing. South Korea demanded an apology, but North Korea said at the time only that it “urgently” had to release the water because the dam’s level was too high and that it would warn Seoul of similar releases in the future.

At 80-minute talks today suggested by South Korea and convened in the North Korean border town of Kaesong, the North expressed its regret, the south’s Unification Ministry spokesman Lee Jong-joo said. The North also said it had to discharge the waters to avoid a bigger catastrophe.

Mr Lee said the North Korean chief delegate told South Korean officials “it was regrettable that unintended human casualties occurred”.

The North also offered condolences to the bereaved South Korean families, Mr Lee said.

The discussions today took place amid reports that North Korea may be preparing to test-fire more missiles following a barrage of missile launches off its east coast on Monday – the regime’s first since early July.

South Korea has detected indications that North Korea is also preparing to fire short-range missiles off its west coast, according to newspaper reports, which also claim the North has announced a no-sail zone in areas off the country’s east and west coasts for October 10-20 – an apparent signal the country could carry out more missile tests.

Former US President George W Bush expressed confidence today that the North Korean nuclear issue can be resolved through diplomacy, telling the World Knowledge Forum, an annual conference sponsored by a South Korean business newspaper, that the best way to bring peace to the Korean peninsula is through the six-nation talks.

The disarmament talks involving the two Koreas, the US, China, Russia and Japan were last held in Beijing in December.

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