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North and South Korea begin dialogue after months of escalating tension

The two Koreas have begun their first meeting since a South Korean island was shelled in November.

Image: AP Photo/Defense Ministry

MILITARY REPRESENTATIVES FROM South and North Korea have begun holding their first official meeting since the fatal shelling of Yeonpyeong island in November 2010, Xinhua reports.

Four people were killed when the North and South exchanged fire over the island, which is ruled by the South but lies near the island’s contested western border.

The attack came several months after the South accused the North of torpedoing and sinking a naval ship, killing all 46 crew members. North Korea has denied any involvement in the naval attack.

The Yeonpyeong island assault saw tensions between the two countries escalate further, while China and the US called for calm on the Korean peninsula.

Andrei Lankov, an expert on North Korea at Kookmin University in Seoul told Al Jazeera that this latest dialogue is hugely significant because if things do not go well for North Korea, they are likely to “switch back to the confrontational mood”.

The US and China have pushed for North and South Korea to begin a dialogue before going back to six-party talks along with Japan and Russia. North Korea’s nuclear potential remains a contentious issue, which China wishes to discuss at the multi-party talks, but which the US and South Korea want the UN to penalise the North for breaching its resolutions.

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