Koreas begin high-level military talks

Generals from North and South Korea opened their latest round of talks Tuesday to try and ease tensions and build confidence between the former battlefield foes.

During the talks, scheduled to last through Thursday at the border village of Panmunjom, the two sides were expected to discuss ways to prevent naval skirmishes along their western sea border and work out logistics for the safe passage of people and goods through two yet-to-be-opened rail links.

"I have nothing to say about the prospect for the talks," South Korean Maj. Gen. Han Min-koo, Seoul's chief negotiator, told The Associated Press on the eve of the discussions.

Han, however, said he expected North Korea would again raise the issue of redrawing the disputed western maritime border, a demand South Korea rejected in previous talks in March that ended without a breakthrough.

The maritime frontier is often a site of clashes between the divided states. The North doesn't recognize the border demarcated by the United Nations at the end of the 1950-53 Korean War, which ended in a cease-fire, not a peace treaty.

The navies of the rival Koreas fought deadly battles in the western sea in 1999 and 2002, and fishing boats from the two sides routinely jostle for position during the May-June crab-catching season.

The military talks coincide with separate inter-Korean talks at Diamond Mountain, a mountain resort in North Korea, which are aimed at working out details of a planned trip in June to the North by former South Korean President Kim Dae-jung.

Kim, who won the 2000 Nobel peace prize for his "sunshine" policy of engagement with North Korea after holding a landmark summit with its leader Kim Jong Il that year, has expressed hope to revisit Pyongyang via an inter-Korean railway, reports the AP.

I.L.