North, South Korea hold top-level talks to defuse military tensions

SEOUL:North and South Korea sat down to urgent top-level talks Saturday, seeking some way out of an escalating crisis that has pushed both their militaries to the brink of an armed conflict.

The talks in the border truce village of Panmunjom began shortly after the expiration of a North Korean deadline for Seoul to halt loudspeaker propaganda broadcasts across the border or face military action.

Despite scepticism that Pyongyang would follow through on its threat, the ultimatum raised border tensions to their highest level for years, with the North re-positioning artillery units and South Korean and US fighter jets flying simulated bombing runs.

The dialogue in Panmunjom, where the Korean War ceasefire was signed, offers a chance for both sides to step back, although analysts said finding a workable compromise would be difficult.