South Korean defense chief says peace treaty talks should wait

South Korea's defense chief said Thursday that any negotiations for a peace treaty on the Korean Peninsula should wait until the standoff over North Korea's nuclear program is resolved.

The two Koreas remain technically in a state of conflict as the 1950-53 Korean War ended in a truce, not peace treaty, although their ties have warmed significantly since their leaders met for the first time in 2000.

Talk of replacing the armistice with a peace treaty has gained momentum after six nations, involved in negotiations aimed at getting North Korea to forgo its nuclear ambitions, agreed in September to "negotiate a permanent peace regime" on the peninsula at an appropriate time.

"It's desirable to launch peace regime talks when there is a visible resolution of the North Korean nuclear issue," South Korean Defense Minister Yoon Kwang-ung said at a security forum, according to his ministry. "If peace regime talks move ahead of the six-party talks, it might have a negative effect on resolving the North Korean nuclear issue."

Yoon also said the two Koreas should build more confidence in each other through tension-reducing measures across the world's most heavily armed border before starting to negotiate a peace treaty.

The six-party talks have been stalled since November as the North refuses to attend in protest against U.S. financial restrictions imposed on the country's alleged currency counterfeiting and other illicit activities, reports the AP.

I.L.