North, South Korea hold high-level military talks

SEOUL - North and South Korea held senior-level military talks on Wednesday, the South's Yonhap news agency reported, following a series of recent incidents on their land and maritime borders.

Yonhap cited a government source as saying the talks between generals on both sides were held at the border truce village of Panmunjom.

The South's defence ministry and unification ministry both declined to comment, with Yonhap's source saying Pyongyang had requested the meeting be kept confidential.

According to the agency, the last time military officers of the rank of general met for discussions was in December 2007.

In a rare incident on their heavily-fortified land border, the two Koreas exchanged heavy machine-gun fire last Friday after the North's military tried to shoot down some leaflet-laden balloons launched by South Korean anti-Pyongyang activists.

There were no reported casualties.

Last Tuesday, North and South Korean naval patrol boats briefly exchanged warning fire near their disputed Yellow Sea border, which has been the site of numerous clashes in the past.

Wednesday's talks were assumed to be focused on lowering the risk of any armed escalation, especially ahead of the planned resumption by early November of a high-level dialogue between Seoul and Pyongyang.

Because the 1950-53 Korean conflict ended with a ceasefire rather than a treaty, the two Koreas remain technically at war.

The North has repeatedly called on South Korea to prevent activists launching leaflets across the border, and warned of dire consequences if it fails to do so.

Seoul says it has urged the activists to exercise self-restraint, but stresses that it has no legal grounds for banning the launches outright.

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