2 Koreas talk at DMZ to ease tensions since attack


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SEOUL, South Korea – Military officers from North and South Korea held talks inside the heavily guarded Demilitarized Zone on Tuesday in the rivals' first official dialogue since the North's deadly artillery barrage of a South Korean island in November.

Tensions on the divided peninsula rose sharply following the attack, which killed four people eight months after the sinking of a South Korean warship killed 46 sailors. The South has blamed a North Korean torpedo attack, but Pyongyang has steadfastly denied involvement in the sinking.

Colonels from the two Koreas met Tuesday in the border village of Panmunjom to set a date and work out logistics for higher-level defense talks aimed at discussing the two attacks last year, according to South Korea's Defense Ministry.

"It's not that cold today and I think today's talks will go well," Col. Moon Sang-kyun, the chief South Korean delegate, said during a meeting with Unification Ministry officials in Seoul, ahead of his departure to the border.

If officers are able to agree on a meeting of defense chiefs, it would be the first such high-level defense meeting between the Koreas in more than three years.

Tuesday's talks were taking place at a South Korean-controlled conference room at Panmunjom, a cluster of blue huts inside the heavily fortified, 154-mile-long (248-kilometer) Demilitarized Zone. Uniformed North Korean soldiers walked single file to the conference room as South Korean military police stood by.

"Can (the talks) go well today?" Moon asked his North Korean counterpart Ri Son Kwon as they exchanged handshakes before the meeting, according to footage provided by the state-run Defense Media Agency.

Ri replied: "Yes, they will go well."

No journalists were allowed to cover the meeting, instead documented by two Defense Media Agency staff: a photographer and cameraman.