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Inter-Korean General-Level Military Talks Start
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General-level officers from South Korea and the North Korea resumed talks Thursday at the truce village of Panmunjom on easing tension along their disputed sea border.

The two-day meeting at Tongilgak, a North Korean administrative building inside this neutral border zone border village, is the third round of its kind.

"I feel great responsibility for this job, out of hope that progress should be made toward easing tension on the Korean Peninsula," the chief South Korean delegate, Maj. Gen. Han Min-koo, was quoted by South Korean Yonhap News Agency as saying before the talks start.

According to the South Korean Defense Ministry, prevention of armed conflict at the controversial inter-Korean sea border in the Yellow Sea and establishment of a joint fishing area around the disputed sea border will be at the top of the agenda.

The Northern Limit Line (NLL) was marked after the 1950-1953 Korean War by the United Nations Command. South Korea viewed it as the inter-Korean western sea border, while North Korea has not accepted the concept.

The navies of the two sides once had two clashes in 1999 and 2002 around of the NLL waters, which resulted in heavy casualties on both sides.

In two previous rounds of general-level talks held in Summer of 2004, the two sides agreed on a set of tension-reducing measures such as dismantlement of propaganda facilities along the land border called the Military Demarcation line (MDL) but those agreements were not fully implemented.

According to South Korean officials, the agenda of this week's military talks also includes a proposal for the two sides to militarily guarantee the security of a set of cross-border railways.

The rail lines, one through the western section of the border and the other across the eastern part, were completed but have yet undergone test-runs. A set of parallel roads opened to service last year for South Koreans traveling to North Korea.

A security guarantee for the cross-border rail links by the two sides' militaries is necessary. Former South Korean President and Nobel laureate Kim Dae-jung wants to visit North Korea by train in June for a second meeting with leader Kim Jong-il. The two met in Pyongyang in 2000.

(Xinhua News Agency March 2, 2006)

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