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Timetable set for Korean peace talks

Korea talks August 7, 1997
Web posted at: 11:06 p.m. EDT (0306 GMT)

NEW YORK (CNN) -- Representatives of North and South Korea, the United States and China agreed Thursday to a location and timetable for future talks aimed at bringing a formal end to the Korean War.

The four parties -- who signed an uneasy armistice, not a formal peace treaty, 44 years ago to end the hostilities of 1950-53 -- will meet in Geneva, six weeks after an agenda for such peace talks is agreed upon, a senior State Department official said.

Officials from the four nations will meet again in New York, beginning September 15, for more preparatory talks to nail down what that agenda should be.

The talks that set the timetable lasted three days, and the State Department official characterized the atmosphere as being "good" overall.

Disagreement remains, however, over whether an agenda for formal peace talks should be a general one or should contain specific items of concern.

North Korea, meanwhile, continues to press the issue of additional food assistance for its starving people, the official said.

"North Korea brought up food," said the official, "as they always do."

Asked by reporters later about food aid to North Korea, South Korean Deputy Foreign Minister said, "The humanitarian aid will continue, but the large-scale government level aid will be discussed when they come to the four-party talks."

All parties seemed optimistic about the next meeting in September, based on the preparatory talks.

"Even though we didn't come out with any concrete agreement at this current preparatory talks, we have learned what our positions are and what the differences are, and I think these will greatly help in our forthcoming talks," Kim Gye Gwan, North Korean vice minister of foreign affairs, said through a translator.

The U.S. State Department's Charles Kartman said, "I'm satisfied with where we are right now, and I'm optimistic that we'll finish the job when we meet again in about a month."

Earlier Thursday, North Korea demanded that U.S. and South Korean forces stop what it termed provocative "war exercises." Pyongyang said the military maneuvers were ruining the atmosphere of the preliminary talks. Seoul, meanwhile, accused the North of preventing progress in the talks.

The United States and South Korea had canceled huge annual springtime exercises as a goodwill gesture, but are still plan training actitivities involving 16,000 troops, set for August 18-29.

Pyongyang says Washington and Seoul have also stepped up activity in recent months, including 150 reconnaissance flights by U.S. warplanes in July near the heavily fortified border between North and South.

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