South’s troops pull-back idea ‘premature’: North Korea

By RIA Novosti

Moscow : North Korea has termed as “premature” a proposal by South Korea to withdraw troops from the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) running between the two states, South Korea’s Yonhap news said Friday.

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The DMZ, which divides the Korean peninsula roughly in half, is the world’s most heavily armed border.

“The issue was off the table, as Chairman Kim Jong-il said it was still premature to have it discussed,” Yonhap quoted South Korean Defence Minister Kim Jang-soo as saying following a three-day summit, which ended Thursday.

Kim Jang-soo accompanied South Korean President Roh Moo-hyun at the summit and was the first South Korean defence minister to visit the reclusive communist state since the 1950-1953 Korean war.

The defence minister also said he would raise the issue of prisoners of war at a meeting with his North Korean counterpart in Pyongyang in November.

On Thursday, the North and South promised to increase economic ties, open a railway service across their heavily armed border, and create a joint fishing zone in the Yellow Sea near the so-called Northern Limit Line, which was the scene of armed clashes between the two states in 1999 and 2002.

The parties are still technically at war and have to sign a formal peace treaty, requiring the participation of the US and China, which were also involved in the conflict. The US has so far been reluctant to discuss the treaty until the North Korea fully discontinues its nuclear program.