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Two Koreas hold fresh talks on volcanic threat

by Staff Writers
Seoul (AFP) April 12, 2011
South and North Korea on Tuesday resumed talks about a potential volcanic threat from the peninsula's highest mountain, in a rare example of cooperation after months of confrontation.

Four South Korean experts met their North Korean counterparts at the North's border town of Kaesong for a second round of talks on ways to deal with any eruption at Mount Paektu, the South's unification ministry said.

"Talks started at 11:15 am (0215 GMT) at Kaesong," a ministry spokesman told AFP.

At the first such meeting on March 29 at the South Korean border city of Munsan, the two sides agreed on the need for joint research into potential hazards from the mountain on the border between North Korea and China.

The North offered access to the peak for the South's experts.

The meeting between volcanic experts followed a request from the North despite icy relations between the two Koreas.

It reflected heightened concern about natural disasters after an earthquake and tsunami devastated northeast Japan and crippled a nuclear 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 in northeast Asia for two months, devastating agriculture.

Cross-border relations have been tense 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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