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SKorea says North chastised negotiator for tardiness at military talks over rail test

SKorea says North chastised negotiator for tardiness at military talks over rail test

Inter-Korean military talks entered a rocky second day Wednesday after the North complained about the South's tardiness to the negotiations, which aim to pave the way for a historic run of trains across their border.
"I thought that today's talks could go well, but your being late spoiled my mood," said the North's Col. Pak Rim Su after the South Korean side was about a half-hour late to the meeting in the truce village of Panmunjom, according to pool reports.
"How can we discuss big issues with those who don't keep time?" Pak asked. "I have a feeling that today's talks may not go well."
In response, South Korean Col. Moon Sung-mook offered an apology.
Both sides spent the morning session elaborating their positions outlined Tuesday, Moon said, declining to get into details. He did not give a clear reason why he was late for the talks, only saying it was because of an "internal issue."
Talks opened Tuesday between two-star generals _ the first time in a year for such military contact between the Koreas _ but their deputies engaged in Wednesday's negotiations. Discussions are set to end Thursday.
South Korea aims in this week's meetings to get the North's military to agree to the rail test _ a landmark event that would mark the first time trains cross the world's most fortified border in more than a half-century. The test run would symbolize a measure of reconciliation between the divided Korean states.
Economic officials from both sides agreed to conduct the test May 17, but the North's military has a final say on whether it goes forward because such a border crossing requires security arrangements.
Last year, a similar, agreed-upon test was called off at the last minute because the North's military refused to agree to security plans after the South rejected its demand that the disputed western sea border be redrawn.
Before entering this week's talks, South Korean officials said they were worried the North might bring up the sea border issue again to scuttle the rail test. The North Korean side did just that Tuesday, saying it came to the talks to discuss how to prevent clashes in waters off the peninsula's west coast.
Still, it was unclear if the North's military intends to scuttle the test or if it raised the sea border issue as a negotiating tactic, as there have been positive indications the rail test is likely to happen as scheduled.
North Korea doesn't recognize the current sea border demarcated by the United Nations at the end of the 1950-53 Korean War, and has long claimed it should be further south.
The waters around the border are rich fishing grounds and boats from the two Koreas often jostle for position during the May-June crab-catching season. In 1999 and 2002, their navies skirmished, killing several sailors and sinking six ships.
The North has claimed the disputed sea border is the "root cause" of such skirmishes and it should be redrawn.
Even if the rail test happens, it would be just a one-time event and does not mean regular train service between the two sides would be restored.
The two Koreas remain technically at war because the 1950-53 Korean War ended in a cease-fire, not a peace treaty.


Updated : 2021-10-19 10:41 GMT+08:00