South Korea and the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) agreed Tuesday to lessen tensions on the Korean Peninsula, Seoul’s top presidential security adviser said after a total of 43 hours of marathon talks with his DPRK counterpart in the truce village of Panmunjom.
The talks ended with North Korea expressing regret over a landmine incident that wounded two South Korean soldiers on the southern section of the demilitarized zone (DMZ).
South Korea has agreed to stop broadcasting all propaganda messages with loudspeakers in frontline areas from midnight Tuesday as far as abnormal situations are not unfolded.
During the talks at the border village of Panmunjom, North Korea also agreed to lift a "quasi-state of war" that it had declared last week, chief South Korean negotiator and presidential security adviser Kim Kwan-jin told a televised briefing.
Kim Kwan-jin, chief security adviser to South Korean President Park Geun-hye, met with Hwang Pyong So, chief military aide to top DPRK leader Kim Jong Un, at the Panmunjom truce village inside the DMZ dividing the two Koreas.
The announcement came after the second round of negotiations the rivals began Saturday after events at their heavily guarded border pushed them toward a possible military confrontation.
According to the agreement, South Korea and the DPRK also agreed to hold an inter-governmental dialogue in Seoul or Pyongyang at an earliest possible date to improve inter-Korean relations, and to go ahead with dialogue and negotiations in various areas.
For the last two weeks, banks loudspeakers in the 2.5-mile-wide demilitarized zone that separates the two Koreas have been at the heart of the dispute. Their messages amounted to outrageous treachery, at least to North Korean ears.
The North announced it was going on a war footing last week, and this then led to marathon negotiations.
Both sides had wanted a face-saving way to avoid an escalation that could lead to bloodshed, especially the North, which is outmatched militarily by Seoul and its ally, the United States.
The agreement was reached after South Korean President Park Geun-hye on Monday said that without a clear North Korean apology for the mine attack that maimed two soldiers, the anti-Pyongyang propaganda broadcasts that infuriate the North would continue.
Kim said the loudspeaker campaign, which began after the blast, would stop at noon Tuesday unless an “abnormal” event happens.
Pyongyang had denied involvement in the land mine explosions and rejected Seoul’s report that Pyongyang launched an artillery barrage last week. It was not clear whether North Korea’s expression of regret meant it was now admitting its involvement.
Even as the two countries held talks over the weekend, South Korea’s military said North Korea continued to prepare for a fight, moving unusual numbers of troops and submarines to the border.
These were the highest-level talks between the two Koreas in a year. Just the fact that senior officials from countries that have spent recent days vowing to destroy each other were sitting together at a table in Panmunjom, the border enclave where the 1953 armistice ending fighting in the Korean War was agreed to, was something of a victory.
The length of the talks was not unusual. While the Koreas often have difficulty agreeing to talk, once they do, overlong sessions are often the rule. After decades of animosity and bloodshed, finding common ground is a challenge.
With regard to the agreement, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon quickly issued a statement welcoming the news of an agreement and stressing the importance of its full implementation.
“I strongly encourage humanitarian measures such as reunions of separated families to be regularized without being subject to political and security considerations,” Ban said. “I further hope that this hard-won momentum for inter-Korean dialogue will lead to the resumption of talks for addressing the nuclear issue.”
Compiled from Xinhua, the Washington Post, Reuters, and Associated Press wires.