South and North Korea agree deal to reduce tensions

North and South Korea

South Korea has halted its propaganda broadcasts into North Korea as part of a deal to defuse tension.

The announcement followed more than 30 hours of talks after events at their heavily guarded border pushed them to the brink of a possible military confrontation in what had become one of the tensest periods between Seoul and Pyongyang in recent history.

The two sides will hold follow-up talks to discuss a range of issues on improving ties, a joint statement said.

Both sides had appeared to be in search of a face-saving way of avoiding an escalation that could have led to bloodshed, especially the North, which is outmatched militarily by Seoul and its ally, the United States.

The announcement came after the South Korean President, Park Geun-hye, said that the anti-Pyongyang propaganda broadcasts would continue unless there was a clear apology for the recent landmine blast in the Demilitarised Zone which had injured two soldiers .

“It is very meaningful that from this meeting North Korea apologised for the landmine provocation and promised to work to prevent the recurrence of such events and ease tensions,” Kim Kwan-jin, the national security adviser to the South Korean president, told a televised news briefing.

Seoul and Pyongyang have remained technically in a state of war since the 1950-53 Korean war ended in a truce, rather than a peace treaty.

North Korea’s leader, Kim Jong-un, warned earlier this month of a “semi-state of war”. The North Korean embassy in London said in a statement that the “psychological warfare” by the “puppet military gangsters” of the South was an “open act of war”.

And last week, North Korean forces, ordered to be “battle ready”, moved heavy artillery close to their side of the demilitarised zone between the two Koreas, while South Korean troops, also on alert, were under orders to “retaliate” against any “provocation” as they did last Thursday.

The deal doesn’t address the bigger issues on the Korean Peninsula, notably Pyongyang’s advancing nuclear program.

In the next 10 years, we have the threat of North Korea with a substantial nuclear arsenal, if we don’t figure out a way to deal with them and a leader we don’t know a lot about, who was part of U.S. teams that negotiated with North Korea under former President Bill Clinton.

Analysts say the recent tensions have followed a familiar pattern of previous North Korea crises.

The North had planned this out very specifically, planting these mines. They knew there was going to be a response from the South, therefore they could ratchet up or deescalate as they wished.

North Korea hasn’t publicly acknowledged laying the mines in the DMZ and had previously rejected the accusations from South Korea and the United States that it did so.

The South’s response of resuming of loudspeaker broadcasts across the border, which included news broadcasts and Korean pop music infuriated the thin-skinned regime in the North. Seoul hadn’t used the tactic in more than a decade.

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