- The Washington Times - Wednesday, August 7, 2002

SEOUL A North Korean military delegation demanded that a new maritime border be established with the South during talks yesterday with the U.S.-led United Nations Command, which oversees an armistice on the Korean Peninsula.
Representatives of North Korea and the U.N. Command (UNC) met at the border village of Panmunjom to discuss the western sea border following a deadly naval clash in June. The 110-minute meeting was the first high-level contact between North Korea and the UNC since November 2000.
North Korean delegates, led by Lt. Gen. Ri Chan-bok, said an agreement on a new sea border was necessary to prevent clashes, a South Korean Defense Ministry official told United Press International.
Maj. Gen. James Soligan of the UNC described the talks as "very positive."
"These talks today proved that positive progress can be made through open dialogue," he said.
A UNC statement said the two sides agreed on the need for better communication, including regular staff-level meetings, in order to avoid another naval confrontation.
"Details of these measures will be discussed in future talks," the statement said.
Four South Korean sailors were killed in the June 29 fighting, and a fifth is missing. South Korean officials believe that 13 North Korean soldiers were killed or injured.
The incident occurred after North Korean naval vessels crossed the Northern Limit Line, or NLL, a U.N.-imposed Korean maritime border established after the 1950-53 Korean War, and fired on a South Korean frigate and patrol boat, sinking both vessels.
"UNC officials told North Koreans that the clash was an armistice accord violation by the North's side, calling for measures to prevent the recurrence of such incidents," said the defense official, who spoke to UPI on the condition of anonymity.
The UNC is likely to dispatch investigators to the site of the incident to look into the North's violation of the armistice agreement, officials said.
The UNC statement said details of preventive measures will be discussed in future talks, but North Koreans demanded that their talks with UNC focus on discussing drawing a new maritime inter-Korean border, saying the border is "an illegal line unilaterally drawn up by the United States," the South Korean official said.
North Korea has long disputed the border, sending its boats into the South's territorial waters. In the face of international criticism, Pyongyang expressed "regret" for the June 29 battle, but it called the skirmish an "accident" triggered by the "unilateral" establishment of the border.

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