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Korea talks defuse tension

Korea Talks defuse tension

2 September 2015

The world has become used to an increase in tension between the DPRK and South Korea during the annual military manoeuvres between the US and South Korea.  But this time the stand-off reached a new and heightened stage after two South Korean border guards were badly injured due to an alleged North Korean mine. This led to a brief exchange of artillery fire between the two sides with, fortunately, no one being injured.

As a result of the land-mine injuries the South restarted its propaganda broadcasts to the North, a move that infuriated the DPRK authorities. Pyongyang then ordered its troops on to a war footing while Seoul warned that it would retaliate harshly to any acts of aggression. About 4,000 residents were also evacuated from border areas in South Korea.

After more than 48 hours of talks at the DMZ a deal was reached after the North, which initially denied planting the mine, agreed to express "regret" and pulled back its troops deployed to the frontline.

South Korea agreed to stop the propaganda broadcasts and President Park Geun-hye said the deal "could serve as an occasion to resolve all inter-Korean issues through trust". Few people believed her.

Both countries also agreed to work towards a resumption of reunions for families separated during the Korean War. This, along with the sensitive issue of the Japanese abductees, is a perennial bone of dispute.

South Korea’s national security adviser and chief negotiator Kim Kwan-jin said there would be follow-up talks to discuss a range of issues on improving ties. But he added that it was not the right time to push for a leaders' summit.

There was speculation that President Park might meet DPRK supreme leader, Kim Jong-un, in Beijing during the 3 September parade to mark the end of the Second World War. But the DPRK leader decided not to attend. Indeed he still has to make his first foreign visit.

The outcome is what most observers expected, though the tension has been ratcheted up compared to recent years. Some consider these regular crises are manufactured and others that they are the result of misunderstandings in a highly-armed, permanent stand-off. Others suggest that it is a way for the DPRK to remind Washington and Seoul that it should not be ignored.

The EU made no statement on the incidents but inter-Korea relations will be high on the agenda when President Tusk visits Seoul on 15 September.

The DPRK view of the incident and Korean unification can be found below.

Statement issued by the Spokesman of the Institute for American Studies of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea
Report of the Institute of Disarmament and Peace, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the DPRK - The Three Charters for national reunification are a great program for reunification common to the nation
Kim Ye Jin, Researcher, Institute for Disarmament and Peace, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, DPRK - Well-balanced approach to the issues on the Korean peninsula and Northeast Asia