Military officers from South and North Korea began preliminary talks Tuesday to lay groundwork for a higher-level meeting, Yonhap News Agency reported, citing a Defense Ministry spokesman.
The talks are the first between the countries since the North’s deadly bombardment of a South Korean border island.
The talks at the border truce village of Panmunjom recessed as of 10:54 a.m. (0154 GMT) after nearly an hour-long morning session, Kim Min-seok, a spokesman at the South’s Defense Ministry, said in Seoul.
The two sides resumed the talks at 2 p.m. (0500 GMT). “Both sides have been discussing the agenda and process for a higher-level meeting,” Kim was quoted as saying. “The atmosphere was serious, and there were no political arguments from the two sides.” The colonel-level talks are aimed at setting the date, place and agenda for higher-level talks, possibly at the level of defense ministers.
But the South’s Defense Ministry said it won’t agree to ministerial-level talks unless North Korea apologizes and takes “responsible measures” for the November 23, shelling of Yeonpyeong Island and the torpedo attack of a South Korean warship last March.
“Our stance has not changed,” Kim told reporters earlier in the day. “A higher-level military meeting will be possible only if North Korea takes responsible measures for the attacks on Yeonpyeong Island and the warship and promises not to carry out any more provocations.”
Tensions persist on the Korean Peninsula after the North’s artillery strike on Yeonpyeong Island killed two marines and two civilians.
The bombardment came after a multinational investigation concluded that North Korea torpedoed a South Korean warship, killing 46 sailors.
North Korea has so far denied any involvement in the torpedo attack of the warship. The nation has also claimed that its artillery attack on Yeonpyeong was legitimate because the South provoked first by holding a live-fire drill near the island with some shells falling on the North’s side.