Rival Koreas to hold military talks on Feb 8

South and North Korea have agreed to hold preliminary military talks aimed at defusing tensions.

Updated: Feb 01, 2011, 13:13 PM IST

Zeenews Bureau

Seoul: Rivals South and North Korea have agreed to hold preliminary military talks on February 8 in an attempt to defuse tensions on the divided peninsula, the Defense Ministry in Seoul said on Tuesday.

The two Koreas have agreed to discuss last year`s deadly attacks against the South which killed a total of 50 people. The talks are meant to set the agenda for a more senior meeting, possibly at the ministerial level.

The announcement came after South Korean President pressed North Korea to change its pattern of provocations and take responsibility for two deadly attacks last year, saying that could lead to a summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Il.

Lee said the North must use the military talks as a chance to show it is serious about improving ties with the outside world.

"North Korea has a good opportunity to change" its behavior, Lee said during a panel discussion televised live. "I have high hopes for a change."

Asked whether a summit with North Korea`s leader Kim was possible if the North demonstrates sincerity and that leads to bilateral and multilateral talks with North Korea, Lee said; "Yes. I don`t deny it. I`d hold a summit if necessary."

Tensions on the peninsula sharply rose after the North`s artillery barrage killed four people on a front-line South Korean island in November. The bombardment came eight months after the deadly sinking of a South Korean warship blamed on Pyongyang. The North has denied its involvement in the sinking, which killed 46 South Korean sailors.

Before last year`s attacks, the two Koreas reportedly pushed for a summit but failed to agree due to differences over the impoverished North`s demand for food aid. Lee has said in the past that he was willing, in principle, to meet Kim at any time if that would help foster peace on the Korean peninsula, which has remained in a technical state of war since the three-year Korean War ended in a truce.

The leaders of the two Koreas held their first-ever summit in 2000, with then-South Korean President Kim Dae-jung traveling to Pyongyang to meet with Kim Jong Il. The second summit was held in 2007 between then-President Roh Moo-hyun and Kim.

The North has pushed recently for talks with South Korea and the resumption of six-nation negotiations over its nuclear weapons program.

Last week, South Korea agreed to defense talks in what would be the rivals` first official contact since the November artillery barrage — the North`s first attack on a civilian-area since the Korean War. The two Koreas have not yet agreed on a date for preliminary talks.

(With agency inputs)