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South Korea - North Korea

Two Koreas set date for military talks

Reuters/Blue House

North and South Korea are to hold working-level military talks on 8 February in the first contact between the two sides since the North's shelling of a border island last November. The meeting will set a date, place and agenda for higher-level military talks possibly between defence ministers. 

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In his first direct response to recent peace overtures from Pyongyang, South Korea's President Lee Myung-Bak raised the possibility of a summit with North Korea's leader, Kim Jong Il. He said, if necessary, they could hold a summit. He added that he had great expectations that it may be time for North Korea to change.

But Seoul insists that a high-level meeting will only go ahead if Pyongyang takes responsibility for two attacks on the South last year and promises there will be no repetition.

Apart from the shelling of a South Korean border island, which killed four people including civilians, the South accuses the North of torpedoing a warship last March with the loss of 46 lives. Pyongyang denies the charge.

The two Koreas held summits in 2000 and 2007. But relations changed after Lee came into power and ended nearly a decade of near-unconditional aid to the hunger-stricken communist state.

Meanwhile, three newspapers in Seoul reported Tuesday that the North is building a new hovercraft based that would allow it to launch a quick invasion of the South Korean islands near the disputed Yellow Sea border.

The base in under construction just 50-60 kilometres from Baengnyeong, the closest island to the North Korean coast. The defence ministry refused to comment on the reports.

 

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