North Korea requests rare meeting with UN forces
Senior North Korean military officers met the US-led UN command in South Korea for the first time in about seven years on Monday after Pyongyang warned at the weekend the peninsula was on the brink of war.
"North Korea requested this meeting to discuss tension reduction," the UN Command said in a news release without offering further details of the talks held at Panmunjom truce village inside the Demilitarised Zone that has divided the peninsula since the 1950-53 Korean War ended in a cease-fire.
Local news reports said the North was expected to protest against joint US-South Korean military drills that will be held from next week and US military activities.
"This is nothing but reckless provocative acts of pushing the tense situation on the Korean peninsula closer to the outbreak of a nuclear war," the North's communist party newspaper said in a commentary on Sunday.
The annual joint South Korean-US military drills have been held without major incident for years, but the North regularly denounces them as a preparation for invasion and nuclear war.
Secretive North Korea has stoked regional tensions in the past weeks by readying a test-flight of its longest-range missile, which is designed to carry a nuclear weapon as far as Alaska but has never successfully flown, US and South Korean officials have said.
The new US government will be sending Stephen Bosworth, its special envoy for North Korea, to the region this week with stops in China, Japan and South Korea, the State Department said.
US-led UN forces signed the armistice and the United States has kept troops in the South after the fighting formally ended to deter North Korea from attacking again.