The crisis had seen a rapid escalation in military movements, with South Korean and US fighter jets flying simulated bombing sorties and North Korea reportedly deploying dozens of submarines and doubling artillery units at the border. “If nothing is agreed, we have to continue the broadcasting”, said the South Korean representative at the talks“. In return, South Korea agreed to cut off propaganda loudspeakers from noon on Tuesday absent any surprises at which time North Korea demobilizes its troops from the current war footing.
Pyongyang has reneged on cooperation plans in the past, and the next test for inter-Korean relations will be their bilateral vow to arrange reunions next month for elderly family members separated by the Korean border – many of whom have not seen each other since before the 1950-53 Korean War. The mood could lapse into acrimony over differences including economic sanctions against North Korea over the 2010 sinking of a South Korean warship, said Mr Cheong Seong Chang, a senior analyst at the Sejong Institute. The last broadcast on August 25 included an announcement of the agreement reached at the high-level talks and the message, “The quasi-state of war has now been lifted”.
South Korea said on Sunday that more than 50 of North Korea’s submarines, about 70 percent of the country’s known fleet, had left their home ports and could not be located, heightening fears that Pyongyang might be poised to attack.
The marathon talks at the Panmunjom truce village inside the Demilitarised Zone (DMZ) separating the two Koreas began on Saturday, shortly after Pyongyang’s deadline for the South to halt its propaganda broadcasts or face military action. There were no details on whether the North addressed the artillery claim in Tuesday’s deal.
The United States, which has 28,500 soldiers based in South Korea, is conducting annual joint military exercises with the South. North Korea regularly condemns the maneuvers as a preparation for war.
Unification Ministry spokesman Jeong Joon-Hee said the North might well consider bringing up the sanctions issue at the proposed talks.
The tourism project began in 1998 during an era of warmer ties and was a legitimate source of hard currency to the cash-strapped North, but Seoul suspended the tours in 2008 following the shooting death of a South Korean tourist there.
The two republics reached a compromise to defuse escalating border tension that has led to exchanges of artillery fire and increasing troop concentration along both sides of the border.
Never before have the two Koreas come to terms with each other after long talks on such sensitive issues. After decades of animosity and bloodshed, finding common ground is a challenge.
In 1960 there were around 500,000 Catholics in South Korea – less than two per cent of the population.
The Yomiuri Shimbun It is important for North and South Korea to steadily implement their latest accord and promote mutual confidence-building through repeated dialogues.
South Korean news agency Yonhap quoted a military official as saying the country was “mobilizing all our surveillance resources” to find the missing subs.