Two Koreas hold military talks as U.S. detects activity at North Korea missile factory

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SEOUL (Reuters) – North and South Korea held military talks on Tuesday amid rising tensions after the United States detected renewed activity at a North Korean missile factory.

FILE PHOTO: A North Korean flag flutters on top of a 160-metre tower in North Korea’s propaganda village of Gijungdong, in this picture taken from the Tae Sung freedom village near the Military Demarcation Line (MDL), inside the demilitarised zone separating the two Koreas, in Paju, South Korea, April 24, 2018. REUTERS/Kim Hong-Ji/FIle Photo

The meeting, their second since June, held in the border village of Panmunjom in the demilitarized zone (DMZ), was designed to follow on from an inter-Korean summit in April at which leaders of the two Koreas agreed to defuse tensions and halt “all hostile acts.”

Kim Do-gyun, the South’s chief negotiator who is in charge of North Korea policy at the defense ministry, told reporters before leaving for the DMZ that he would make efforts to craft “substantive” measures to ease tensions and build trust.

South Korea’s defense ministry said last week it plans to reduce guard posts and equipment along the heavily fortified border as an initial step to implement the agreement.

On Monday, a senior U.S. official told Reuters that U.S. spy satellites had detected renewed activity at the North Korean factory that produced the country’s first intercontinental ballistic missiles capable of reaching the United States.

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said last week that North Korea was continuing to produce fuel for nuclear bombs despite the country’s leader Kim Jong Un vowing to work toward denuclearization during a summit with U.S. President Donald Trump in Singapore last month.

Trump declared soon afterward that North Korea no longer posed a nuclear threat, but Pyongyang has offered no details as to how it might go about denuclearization and subsequent talks have not gone smoothly.

The North’s state media has in recent days chastised the South for failing to swiftly move to improve inter-Korean relations while only caring about the view of the United States calling for a thorough enforcement of sanctions.

The Rodong Sinmun, North Korea’s official party newspaper, on Tuesday accused Seoul of “wasting time” waiting for sanctions to be lifted only after denuclearization is completed, without “taking a single action” on its own.

It called for steps to facilitate a restart of the previously jointly-run but now closed programs, such as the Kaesong Industrial Complex and tours to the North’s Mount Kumgang resort.

North Korea’s propaganda website Uriminjokkiri also criticized South Korea for its stance of keeping sanctions on Tuesday, saying “sanctions and conversation cannot exist side by side.”

Reporting by Joyce Lee and Hyonhee Shin; Editing by Simon Cameron-Moore

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