June 14, 2018 / 7:05 AM / 4 months ago

North, South Korea hold military talks amid U.S. plan to stop drills

SEOUL, June 14 (Reuters) - North and South Korea held military talks for the first time in more than a decade on Thursday, as two-star generals from both sides met just two days after U.S. President Donald Trump floated his plan to halt joint exercises with South Korea.

The talks, held in the border village of Panmunjom in the demilitarised zone (DMZ), followed on from an inter-Korean summit in April at which leaders of the two Koreas had agreed to defuse tensions and cease “all hostile acts.”

The talks came two days after Trump said he would stop “expensive, provocative” war games with the South, following his historic summit in Singapore with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.

Trump’s move had caught South Korean officials off guard, but they said a halt in the drills was needed while dialogue with the North was underway.

The military talks had been initially slated for May, but were postponed after the North called off another planned high-level meeting in protest against U.S.-South Korean air combat exercises.

The process was put back on track during a surprise second summit early this month between Kim and South Korean President Moon Jae-in.

The last time the two Koreas held military talks was in 2007.

Ahn Il-san, the North’s chief delegate, said the delay was due to “certain headwinds” without elaborating, adding the two sides should overcome future obstacles based on mutual understanding and the spirit of the inter-Korean summit.

Kim Do-gyun, the South’s lead negotiator who is in charge of North Korea policy at the defence ministry, told reporters before departing for the DMZ that he and Ahn would explore ways to ease military tensions and the schedule of a ministerial meeting.

They are also expected to discuss the planned establishment of a hotline between the two militaries. (Reporting by Hyonhee Shin and Joint Press Corps; Editing by Simon Cameron-Moore)

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