Global Policy Forum

North Korea, UN Generals Hold Meeting

Agence France Presse
August 17, 1999

Seoul - Generals from North Korea and the US-led United Nations Command (UNC) met Tuesday in the truce village of Panmunjom for talks on a naval clash in June, officials said. The meeting, aimed at easing tensions on the Korean peninsula, came amid heightened fears that the Stallinist North could launch a new long-range rocket which could hit parts of the United States. "The talks ... are expected to continue high-level discussions on the recent tension in the West (Yellow) Sea," a UNC news release said. The meeting will be the 10th general officer meeting since the forum was created in June last year. "The purpose of the talks is to discuss practical armistice-related issues, reaffirm both sides' commitment to the general officer forum and reduce tension on the Korean Peninsula," the release said.

Representing the UNC were Major-General Michael Dunn, of the US Air Force, South Korean Air Force Brigadier-General Keum Ki-Yuen, British General John Baker and Colonel Francois Torres of France. Yonhap News Agency said the UNC was expected to propose a signal system be arranged between the two Koreas so that their navies could avoid unnecessary clashes. An armed clash in a fishing ground in the Yellow Sea left a North Korean boat sunk, with dozens of North Koreans believed dead. The UNC was also expected to propose the establishment of military hotlines between North Korea and the UNC.

Tuesday's meeting was proposed by the North after earlier meetings ended without agreement over how to settle tension over the Yellow Sea maritime boundary. The June clash occurred after communist boats intruded over the UN-declared boundary between the two nations. The two Koreas have remained technically at war following the end of the 1950-53 Korean conflict in a tense armistice instead of a peace treaty. Since the naval clash, North Korea has renewed its demand to draw a new sea border, based on the extension of the armistice military demarcation line on land.

It has never acknowledged the Northern Limit Line (NLL) which was unilaterally set up by the UNC at the end of the Korean War in 1953. But the UNC insists the NLL has served as a practical border for more than four decades and should be respected. North Korea has also demanded an apology for the naval clash and the punishment of those responsible.

The meeting came as North Korea was reportedly poise to test-launch a new long-range Taepodong II missile which could target parts of the United States. Washington and its allies have warned that a launch would shatter regional stability and bring serious economic and diplomatic consequences on the starving North. But North Korea reportedly showed a softening in its tough stance on the issue on Monday, when a top official told CNN television that Pyongyang was till open to a "diplomatic solution."

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