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South and North Korea agree deal to reduce tensions

August 24, 2015 6:44 pm

South Korea has agreed to halt cross-border propaganda broadcasts as part of a deal with North Korea to defuse tension after recent confrontations.

Seoul started the broadcasts after a landmine injured two of its soldiers on the border earlier this month.

The South’s lead negotiator said the move came after the North agreed to express “regret” over the incident.

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The agreement came after marathon talks that began after an exchange of fire at the border last Thursday.

The negotiations in the abandoned “truce village” of Panmunjom inside the demilitarised zone were said to have ended at 00:55 local time on Tuesday (15:55 GMT Monday).

A joint statement said South Korea would stop the loudspeaker broadcasts at midday on Tuesday and the North would end its “semi-state of war”.
South Korean envoy Kim Kwan-jin said there would be further North-South talks

Both countries have also agreed to work towards a resumption of reunions for families separated by the 1950-53 Korean War.

National security adviser Kim Kwan-jin, who led the negotiations for the South, said there would be follow-up talks to discuss a range of issues on improving ties

But he said it was not the right time to push for a summit between the leaders of the two countries.
Analysis: Stephen Evans, BBC News, Seoul

The outcome is what seasoned Korea watchers expected, though the tension has been cranked up much higher than in recent years.

It’s not clear how much these regular crises are manufactured and how much they are the result of misunderstandings in a highly-armed, permanent stand-off.

Some critics of Pyongyang say it generates crises to remind South Korea and the US that it is there and should be treated as important – and also to keep its own citizenry on high alert.

Others say the government in Seoul could do more to improve relations with the North, pointing at what they say are provocative military exercises with the US.

But supporters of the South Korean government say: “Why go soft on a regime that is developing nuclear weapons to target at Seoul?”

The South resumed the propaganda broadcasts after an 11-year hiatus earlier this month in apparent retaliation for the landmine incident on 4 August – although the North denied having planted the mines.

It also denied shelling South Korea last week – an incident that prompted artillery fire from the South.

Pyongyang ordered its troops to be “on a war footing” on Friday while Seoul warned that it would “retaliate harshly” to any acts of aggression. About 4,000 residents were also evacuated from border areas in South Korea.

The two Koreas remain technically at war, because the 1950-1953 conflict ended in an armistice, not a peace treaty.

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