North Korea proposes military talks with South

North Korea wants to discuss with the South the disputed Yellow Sea border.

Seoul: North Korea has proposed holding military talks with South Korea to discuss disputes, the South`s Defence Ministry said on Thursday, in another apparent peace overture from Pyongyang.

The North suggested the working-level talks in a communication on Wednesday through a military line at the border truce village of Panmunjom, a ministry spokesman said.

The military talks would be the first in almost two years.

The North wants to discuss the disputed Yellow Sea border and anti-Pyongyang propaganda leaflets floated into the North by South Korean activists, the spokesman said.

The border was drawn unilaterally by UN forces at the end of the 1950-53 war but the North insists it should run further to the south. It was the scene of bloody naval clashes in 1999, 2002 and last November.

In March, a South Korean corvette, the Cheonan, sank near the border with the loss of 46 lives after what Seoul and Washington said was a North Korean torpedo attack.

"Taking into consideration that North Korea has not admitted to or apologised for sinking the Cheonan, the government is reviewing the North`s proposal cautiously," a Defence Ministry statement said.

Yonhap news agency quoted government sources as saying the South was unlikely to accept the talks proposal considering the agenda.

The South says the sea border has been in place for more than half a century. It also says it has no legal power to stop activists launching balloons across the border which carry tens of thousands of leaflets.

Cross-border relations have been icy since South Korea and the United States, citing the findings of a multinational investigation, accused the North in May of the warship attack. It denies involvement.

But this month the North has returned the crew of a detained South Korean boat, offered to hold a new round of reunions for families separated by the peninsula`s division and accepted flood aid from Seoul.

The North`s military on Thursday began a fifth round of separate talks at Panmunjom with the US-led United Nations Command about the warship sinking, a UN Command spokesman said.

The command is headed by the general in charge of the 28,500 US troops stationed in the South to deter the North.

At the four previous meetings the North demanded to send a high-level team to the South to inspect evidence dredged from the seabed, including what Seoul and other investigators say is part of a North Korean torpedo.

The South has rejected the demand, saying the UN Command should handle the case as a serious breach of the armistice that ended the war.

Bureau Report