UN chief welcomes deal to defuse Korea standoff

United Nations, United States (AFP) — UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on Monday applauded an agreement between North and South Korea to defuse a military standoff, saying momentum from the deal could help manage other problems on the divided peninsula.

The agreement, announced Monday, followed a rare artillery exchange over the Korean border last week in which North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un order his frontline troops onto war-footing.

“I warmly welcome the news of an agreement reached between the Republic of Korea and the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea today,” Ban said in a statement.

He voiced hope that the agreement to hold regular talks “will serve as a mechanism to effectively manage any problems that may arise on the Korean peninsula.”

In the agreement, the North expressed regret over landmine blasts that had maimed two South Korean soldiers and the South agreed to conditionally halt broadcasts of propaganda over the border — the two main triggers of last week’s standoff.

Ban, who served as South Korean foreign minister from 2004 to 2006, had called on both sides to halt the escalation.

He called for greater cooperation on humanitarian measures, such as reunions of separated families, which the two sides agreed to work towards resuming in the new agreement, and said he hoped talks on nuclear disarmament could also resume.

“As secretary-general, I stand ready to support inter-Korean cooperation,” Ban said.

The 1950-1953 Korean War ended in a truce but not a peace treaty, which means that the two Koreas technically remain at war.

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