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North and South Korean end military talks without agreement on joint fishing zone

    SEOUL, South Korea — North and South Korea ended three days of talks Friday without an agreement on creating a shared fishing zone to defuse tensions along their disputed sea border.
    The issue is a perennial deal-breaker in military talks between the two Koreas. Generals from both Koreas met for three days in the border village of Panmunjom.
    ‘‘We couldn’t agree with the North’s opinion so we couldn’t reach a settlement today,’’ said Col. Moon Sung-mook, spokesman for the South’s delegation.
    North Korea’s official Korean Central News Agency said the South was ‘‘persisting in its old stand dating back to the era of confrontation’’ and setting back a push to reunify the divided peninsula.
    North Korea does not recognize the boundary off the peninsula’s west coast, drawn unilaterally at the end of the 1950-53 Korean War by the commander of U.S.-led U.N. forces. The North wants the line be redrawn farther south, which Seoul has consistently rejected. The dispute led to bloody naval skirmishes in 1999 and 2002.
    South Korean President Roh Moo-hyun and North Korean leader Kim Jong Il agreed at their October summit to create a joint fishing area as a way to resolve the dispute. But the sides disagree over where the zone should be.
    The South wants the zone to extend on both sides of the current border, but the North demands it should only be to the south.
    The dispute led to a minor scuffle between the two sides Thursday after a North Korean officer sought, with journalists present, to display a slide of a map with the North’s proposal.
    A South Korean naval officer rushed over to stop the North Korean officer, claiming the move violated agreements to keep discussions of specifics behind closed doors, and the North Korean tried to push him out of the way.
    Despite the lack of agreement on the sea border dispute, the two sides produced an accord to simplify customs inspections and other border-crossing procedures for South Koreans heading into the North.
    The North also agreed to allow South Koreans to use the Internet and cell phones while inside the isolated country for two joint industrial and tourism ventures.
    The Korean War ended in a 1953 cease-fire, leaving the sides technically at war.
    Warming ties fostered by progress at international talks on North Korea’s nuclear weapons programs have rekindled hopes that a peace treaty could finally be discussed.

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