South Korea agrees to North proposal for negotiations

SEOUL, South Korea, AP

South Korea on Tuesday accepted a North Korean proposal for talks following an expression of regret from the communist North for a deadly naval clash.

The South Korean Unification Ministry, which handles North Korea policy, agreed to the North’s suggestion that talks to revive stalled reconciliation efforts be held in early August.

In line with the Northern proposal, the ministry said it wanted to hold working-level talks Aug. 2-4 at the North’s Diamond Mountain resort on the east coast of the Korean peninsula. Cabinet-level talks in Seoul would follow at an undetermined date, it said.

“We note your expression of regret over the clash in the west sea and your position that efforts must be made to prevent such incidents from happening again,” the South Korean ministry said in a statement.

“We urge you to take all necessary measures so that in the future such a military clash does not happen again,” it said.

The message from Unification Minister Jeong Se-hyun was relayed to Kim Ryong Song, the chief North Korean negotiator, in a telephone call at the border village of Panmunjom.

The North responded hours later, saying it would send a five-member delegation to the talks this weekend, said Kim Jong-ro, a spokesman for the South Korean ministry.

One South Korean patrol boat sank in the June 29 clash off the western coast, killing four soldiers and wounding 19 others. One was listed as missing.

South Korea estimates that 13 North Korean sailors died and 17 others were wounded in the skirmish near a disputed sea border.