Seoul and Pyongyang agree deal aimed at defusing tensions

Extended negotiations run parallel with mobilisation of military forces on both sides

Anti-North Korean activists shout slogans as they protest on the Unification Bridge that leads to the demilitarised zone between North and South Korea in Paju on Monday. Photograph: Ed Jones/AFP/Getty Images

Anti-North Korean activists shout slogans as they protest on the Unification Bridge that leads to the demilitarised zone between North and South Korea in Paju on Monday. Photograph: Ed Jones/AFP/Getty Images

 

North Korea and South Korea have ended their marathon high-level talks aimed at lowering tensions across their heavily-armed border.

The meeting between North Korean leader Kim Jong Un’s top military aide and South Korean president Park Geun Hye’s chief security adviser ended at 0.55 a.m. local time on Tuesday (4.55pm Irish time), South Korea’s presidential office said.

North Korea is to express regret over the mine explosions on August 4th that maimed two South Korean soldiers, which triggered the latest round of tension, South Korea’s Yonhap News reported, without citing a source.

South Korea will halt anti-North Korea propaganda broadcasts, and both sides will seek to restart the reunions of families separated since the Korean War, Yonhap said.

Negotiations at the border village of Panmunjom stretched out for more than 43 hours, spread over about three days, and coincided with the mobilisation of forces on both sides. The two sides exchanged fire across the border on Thursday, South Korea said. North Korea denied it fired.

An uneasy 62-year truce on the peninsula has been periodically disrupted by exchanges of fire that peter out without escalating, though the North Korean leader’s relative inexperience and the unpredictable nature of his regime have kept tensions high.

North Korea mobilised its submarine fleet and strengthened its artillery positions in recent days, while South Korea and the US scrambled fighter jets. Ms Park said on Monday she would “never back off” in the military standoff and that she would seek a clear apology from North Korea over the mine explosions.

North Korea has denied setting the devices. The standoff exacerbated the turmoil in South Korea’s financial markets.

– (Bloomberg)