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Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)

Monday, September 18, 2000

Koreas' defense chiefs
may meet next week

By Jim Lea
Osan bureau chief

Hope is high that defense ministers from the two Koreas will meet next week to discuss military tension reduction, the Defense Ministry in Seoul has announced.

North Korea passed a letter from Kim Il Chol, Pyongyang’s minister of the People’s Armed Forces, to South Korean Defense Minister Cho Song-tae on Wednesday through the Military Armistice Commission at Panmunjom. In his letter, Kim "welcomed the opportunity to discuss military matters," a ministry spokesman said.

Kim suggested holding the meeting in Hong Kong or Beijing, the spokesman said. The meetings should be held before the end of September, he added.

Cho proposed in a letter to Kim on Thursday that the talks be held Sept. 25 and 26 in Hong Kong, the spokesman said. "Unless the North makes a counter proposal, we believe those will be the dates and venue," he added.

Cho’s letter also was sent through the Military Armistice Commission at Panmunjom, the spokesman said. He said it was the first time in six years that the two Koreas have communicated through the commission.

Seoul wants to discuss the opening of a military hot line with the North, with each side giving the other prior notification of major military training exercises and troop movements. Those measures will help reduce military tensions between the two countries and will help prevent starting a war by accident, officials said.

The South also wants to discuss cooperation between the two Koreas’ military in restoring rail service and building a highway to link the countries.

South Korea is committing 3,000 troops to building the rail and road links, while Pyongyang has said it will commit 35,000 troops. Preliminary work has begun to clear land mines from the southern sector of the Demilitarized Zone.

Bae Gi-chul contributed to this report.
 



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