SEOUL: The first high-level talks in nearly a year between South Korea and North Korea have stretched into the early hours of Sunday.
The rivals, who are trying to defuse mounting tensions that have pushed them to the brink of a possible military confrontation, began their meeting in the border village of Panmunjom early on Saturday evening.
An official from South Korea’s presidential Blue House said after midnight that the talks were still going on, and that the delegates were taking a break. Marathon talks are not unusual for the Koreas, who have had long negotiating sessions in recent years over much less momentous issues.
The talks were held shortly after a Saturday deadline set by North Korea for the South to dismantle loudspeakers broadcasting anti-North Korean propaganda at their border. North Korea had declared that its front-line troops were in full war readiness and prepared to go to battle if Seoul did not back down.
The South Korean presidential office said earlier that the country’s national security director, Kim Kwan-jin, and Unification Minister Hong Yong-pyo would sit down with Hwang Pyong So, the top political officer for the Korean People’s Army, and Kim Yang Gon, a senior North Korean official responsible for South Korean affairs. Hwang is considered by outside analysts to be North Korea’s second most important official after supreme leader Kim Jong Un.