By Army Staff Sgt. Michael J. Carden

American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, March 2, 2009 – Officials from the North Korean army and the United Nations Command held their first high-level talks in nearly seven years today inside the Demilitarized Zone.

North Korea requested the meeting to discuss measures to reduce tension on the Korean peninsula, according to a statement released today by the U.S.-led United Nations Command there. The 32-minute meeting took place in Gyeonggi province’s Panmunjom village.

“The United Nations Command sees the North Korean request for these general-officer-level talks to start again as positive,” UNC officials said in the statement. “These talks can be useful in building trust and preventing misunderstanding as well as introducing transparency regarding the intentions of both sides.”

Relations have been tense between the two parties, as the U.N. continues its efforts to convince North Korean leaders to shut down nuclear weapons production and stop proliferation of weapons of mass destruction.

News reports said U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton plans to dispatch envoy Stephen Bosworth to North Korea this week to initiate disarmament talks with the country.

Clinton said during a recent trip to the region that denuclearization by North Korea would be “a chance to normalize relations,” calling for “complete and verifiable denuclearization” of the communist north.

UN Command and North Korean People’s Army to Conduct Talks

Release # 090305-1

SEOUL (UNC) March 5, 2009 – The United Nations Command (UNC) and Korean People’s Army (KPA) will meet on Friday, March 6 for the 16th UNC-KPA general officer talks at Panmunjom.  The UNC proposed this meeting during the 15th UNC-KPA talks held at the KPA’s request on Monday, March 2.

The KPA accepted the UNC proposal for the Friday general officer talks.  In advance, the KPA and the UNC agreed to convene a colonel-level meeting held today at 10 a.m. to develop agenda items and establish administrative protocol for the upcoming general officer talks.

Representing the UNC at the proposed meeting will be Maj. Gen. Johnny Weida, U.S. Air Force; Brigadier Gen. Lee Chang-heon, Republic of Korea Air Force; Brigadier Matthew O’Hanlon, Commonwealth Member from the United Kingdom; and Colonel Harold Cockburn, rotating member from New Zealand.

The purpose of the meetings is to discuss practical armistice-related issues, reaffirm commitment to the general officer forum, and reduce tension on the Korean Peninsula.