By Madison McHugh
High-level talks between North Korea and South Korea have resulted in a deal to lower tensions on the Korean peninsula, according to VOA News.
Each side actively lowered its defense stance as per the accord. North Korea expressed “regret” for two South Korean soldiers injured by a landmine on the southern side of the Korean Demilitarized Zone, and Seoul discontinued propaganda broadcasts into the North. Additionally, South Korea retracted the declaration of a “quasi-state of war,” according to South Korea’s presidential office.
The two countries have also agreed to begin talks in September about reuniting families separated during the Korean War. The reunions could begin as early as October, provided relatives are matched and a venue is found, according to the Associated Press.
However, there is much speculation as to how long diplomacy can hold. Due to the lack of a formal end to the Korean War, many argue that the Koreas are always in a “quasi-state of war.” North Korean negotiator Hwang Pyong So admitted that although there was expressed “regret,” Pyongyang will not take responsibility for the landmine.
Moreover, the sanctions placed on the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) by the South in 2010, after the sinking of a South Korean warship, will not be lifted until Seoul receives an official apology for the death of 46 sailors. Pyongyang continues to deny any involvement in the incident.
However, the extended talks have prevented immediate conflict. In recent weeks, both sides deployed troops and exchanged artillery fire near a loudspeaker at the demilitarized zone. North Korea threatened to attack the loudspeakers when the South began blasting propaganda along the border in response to the landmine explosion. There were no reported injuries or casualties.
Tensions have decreased since the incident, but it is reported that even during the talks, North Korea moved a large amount of troops and submarines to the South Korean border.
The two countries continued to negotiate despite the North’s preemptive display. North Korea has expressed interest in reopening its borders for South Korean tourists, as well as pursuing business and investment deals. Specifically, the North will make tours of the Diamond Mountain resort, which brought in revenues during the early 2000s until the shooting and death of a South Korean tourist in 2008, available once more.
All signs indicate that the North does not want war, but would still rather arm itself prematurely than trust that talks with South Korea will succeed. It is widely believed that the joint military exercises between the United States and South Korea, which Pyongyang has actively condemned as invasion rehearsal, is the most critical point of contention between the North and South.
It is expected that Pyongyang will relax its defense posture after the U.S.-South Korean drills end on August 28.