UN Command says its planned talks with NKorean military have been delayed at NKorea’s request

Monday, July 12, 2010

US-led UN Command says talks with NKorea delayed

SEOUL, South Korea — North Korea’s military abruptly canceled a rare meeting Tuesday with the American-led U.N. Command that had been arranged to discuss the deadly sinking of a South Korean warship blamed on Pyongyang.

Military officers from North Korea and the U.N. Command were to meet at the Korean border village of Panmunjom on Tuesday morning to discuss the March 26 sinking that killed 46 South Korean sailors. It would have been the first meeting since the sinking, which sharply raised tension on the divided Korean peninsula.

The North, however, requested a delay in the talks for “administrative reasons,” the U.N. Command said in a statement. It said that a new meeting time was not immediately proposed.

An international investigation in May concluded that a North Korean submarine fired a torpedo that sank the 1,200-ton South Korean warship Cheonan near the tense Korean sea border in late March. Pyongyang flatly denies it was responsible and has warned any punishment would trigger war.

The U.N. Command, which oversees an armistice that ended the Korean War in 1953, separately investigated the sinking to find out if it violated the truce, though findings of that probe have not been disclosed.

Late last month, the command proposed military talks with North Korea to review its findings and initiate dialogue.

The North first rejected the offer, criticizing the U.S. for allegedly trying to meddle in inter-Korean affairs under the name of the U.N.

But Pyongyang changed its position last week and proposed working-level talks at the Korean border village of Panmunjom to prepare for higher-level talks on the sinking.

The U.S. stations 28,500 troops in South Korea, a legacy of the Korean War, which ended in an armistice that has never been replaced with a permanent peace treaty.

The U.N. Security Council on Friday approved a statement that condemned the sinking but stopped short of directly blaming North Korea. The next day, the North said it will make efforts to resume stalled disarmament talks on its nuclear program and conclude a peace treaty that could formally end the Korean War, a sign that the regime could live with the U.N. Security Council’s presidential statement.

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