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S.Korea proposes fresh volcano talks with N.Korea

by Staff Writers
Seoul (AFP) April 6, 2011
South Korea on Wednesday proposed a resumption of talks with the North about the volcanic threat from the peninsula's highest mountain in a rare case of cooperation following months of confrontation.

South Korean experts suggested to their counterparts in the North that they meet in the North Korean border city of Kaesong on Tuesday next week, Unification Ministry spokeswoman Lee Jong-Joo told AFP.

The proposal comes a week after experts from the two Koreas held their first meeting at the South Korean border town of Munsan on volcanic activity at Mount Paekdu.

The two sides have agreed on the need for joint research into potential hazards from the mountain on the border between North Korea and China, with the North offering access to the peak for the South's experts.

The opening of the Munsan meeting reflected heightened concern about natural disasters after an earthquake and tsunami devastated northeastern Japan and crippled an atomic power plant.

Since its last eruption in 1903, the 2,740-metre (9,042-foot) volcano, considered sacred by both Koreas, has been dormant. But experts say topographical signs and satellite images suggest it may have an active core.

The South's National Institute of Environmental Research said in a recent report that an eruption could lower temperatures by two degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) in northeast Asia for two months, devastating agriculture.

Cross-border relations have been icy since the South accused the North of torpedoing a warship in March 2010 with the loss of 46 lives. Pyongyang denies the charge, but went on to shell a South Korean island last November, killing four people.

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