BEIJING – As the Republic of Korea (ROK) and the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) are still conducting high-level contact in the truce village of Panmunjom inside the demilitarized zone at the borders, situation remains tight in the peninsula.
The two countries have just ended the nearly 10 hours of difficult negotiation starting Saturday afternoon and will resume the talks on Sunday afternoon.
During the first round of marathon talks, both sides comprehensively discussed ways of resolving the recent situations and developing the inter-Korean relations, ROK’s presidential spokesman Min Kyung-wook said.
Top military aides to the leaders of the two Koreas met in Panmunjom, accompanied by high-ranking officials in charge of inter-Korean relations respectively.
Attendants at the closed-door meeting were Kim Kwan-jin, chief security advisor to South Korean President Park Geun-hye, and Unification Minister Hong Yong-pyo on the South Korean side.
The DPRK side was represented by Hwang Pyong So, top military aide to top leader Kim Jong Un and director of the General Political Bureau of the Korean People’s Army, and the United Front Department director Kim Yang Gon.
Kim and Hwang started the meeting with a smiling face and handshake, according to TV footage aired by South Korean broadcasters. They met in October last year when Hwang visited Incheon, South Korea’s western port city, to attend the closing ceremony of the Asian Games hosted by South Korea.
The DPRK’s KCNA news agency reported the start of the high-level contact, referring to South Korea as its official name “the Republic of Korea” in a very rare move that raised hopes for an end to tensions caused by landmine blasts and the exchange of artillery fires across border.
Pyongyang usually called the ROK “puppet state.”
Entering August, the month when the ROK and the United States held their annual joint military drill, Ulchi Freedom Guardian (UFG), situations in the long-divided peninsula have been escalating, as incidents and conflicts frequently took place.
On Aug. 4, three landmines detonated on the southern section of the demilitarized zone, wounding two ROK soldiers on patrol duty. Seoul claimed that the mines had been deliberately planted by DPRK forces, but Pyongyang denied any involvement.
On Aug. 10, the ROK military resumed broadcasting its propaganda messages through loudspeakers, having been silence for the past 11 years, in retaliation for the landmine blast, which the DPRK condemned as “a declaration of war.”
On Thursday, Seoul claimed that the DPRK fired a round of anti-artillery machine gun and three shells of 76.2-mm direct-fire weapon in the western border toward the ROK territory.
Pyongyang denied the South Korean military’s accusation of shelling, and blasted Seoul for “fabricating” such an incident. And the ROK’s military fired about dozens of warning shots into the DPRK territory as a counter action.
The KCNA reported on Friday that the DPRK’s top leader, Kim Jong Un, had ordered his country’s frontline forces to enter a state of war “to be fully battle ready to launch a strong military action unless South Korea stop its psychological warfare campaigns.”
And the ROK also threatened stern retaliation against any further provocation. Seoul and Washington raised their joint reconnaissance position toward the DPRK to the second highest Saturday. South Korean forces remained on the highest alert.
Heightened tension in the peninsula has caused concerns from neighboring countries as well as the rest of international community.
China on Friday asked relevant parties to exercise restraint and prevent escalation of tensions on the Korean Peninsula.
“We urge relevant sides to maintain calm and restraint, properly deal with the current situation through contact and dialogue, and stop any action that could heighten tensions,” Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said.
Bordering on the Korean Peninsula, China pays close attention to the peninsular situation and is deeply concerned about recent incidents, Hua said.
She said China resolutely safeguards regional peace and stability and opposes any action that could raise tensions.
“China is willing to work with all parties concerned for peace and stability of the peninsula,” she said.8 In addition, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon was deeply concerned by rising tensions on the Korean Peninsula, a spokesperson for the Secretary-General said.
Ban has closely followed the reports of rising tensions on the Korean Peninsula. He urged the parties to refrain from taking any further measures that might increase tensions, said Eri Kaneko, associate spokesperson for the UN chief.
“He also calls the parties to engage in dialogue to reduce tensions and to promote peace and stability on the Korean Peninsula,” Kaneko said.