Seoul (dpa) – South and North Korea reached an agreement early
Tuesday in talks to defuse tensions in the latest crisis on the
peninsula.

Under the agreement, North Korea’s “quasi-state of war” would be
lifted, and South Korea would stop its broadcast of propaganda by
loudspeaker across their shared border, South Korean security advisor
Kim Kwan Jin said from Seoul.

North Korea apologized for a landmine explosion that critically
wounded two South Korean soldiers.

The apology was one of the central demands by Seoul at the three-day
negotiations in the border town of Panmunjom. The accord states that
North Korea expressed its regret for injuring the two soldiers, and
Pyongyang further promised not to repeat such provocations.

North Korea had initially denied planting the mines south of the
demilitarized zone between the countries.

The landmine incident, in the two South Korean soldiers lost their
legs, led to the South switching on its propaganda speakers for the
first time in 11 years in retaliation.

The tension escalated with an exchange of dozens of artillery shells
Thursday across the border.

About 50 of North Korea’s estimated 70 submarines were out of their
bases, with their locations unknown, the South Korean news agency
Yonhap cited a South Korean military official as saying.

The artillery deployed on the North’s side of the border had been
doubled, he said.

Yonhap reported that the North Korean military had mobilized around
20 hovercraft around the western maritime border, citing unnamed
military sources.

In New York, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said he “warmly
welcomes” the agreement.

“In particular, I highly appreciate the agreement to hold regular
inter-Korean dialogue and hope that this will serve as a mechanism to
effectively manage any problems that may arise on the Korean
Peninsula,” Ban said.

The UN chief, a former South Korean foreign minister, said he hoped
that the dialogue would lead to the resumption of negotiations on the
nuclear issue.

The Panmunjom talks began shortly after the expiration of a North
Korean ultimatum to turn off the loudspeakers. Pyongyang had demanded
an end to the propaganda broadcasts within 48 hours.

The breakthrough came at the end of a marathon third day of talks
between South Korea’s Kim and the North Korean military’s highest
political officer, Hwang Pyong So, who is considered a close
confidante of the country’s leader, Kim Jong Un.

Hong Yong Pyo, South Korea’s unification minister, and Kim Yang Gon,
a senior member of the North Korean ruling party, took part.

US State Department spokesman John Kirby said the United States
welcomed the agreement.

“This was obviously a compromise,” Kirby said. “That’s not
insignificant. We hope that will continue to decrease tensions. We
will have to see how it plays out.”

The US continues to coordinate closely with South Korea and
“reiterate our unwavering support for the alliance,” he said.