North, South Korea Agree on Easing Tensions

North and South Korea (search) agreed Friday on measures to ease military tension along the Cold War's (search) last frontier, according to a joint statement released after all-night negotiations.

The military talks, which began a week ago in North Korea, were the first time that the generals from the former battlefield foes have met.

The two sides adopted a standard radio frequency and signaling system for their navies and agreed to exchange data on illegal fishing. They also decided to set up a hot line between the two sides to improve communication.

They will also end propaganda efforts along their border -- via loudspeakers and billboards -- by mid-August, the joint statement said.

"Both sides have agreed to jointly make efforts in order to ease military tensions and achieve peace on the Korean Peninsula," the joint statement said.

However, there was no discussion of troop pullbacks from one of the most heavily fortified borders in the world. The tank traps, gun emplacements and minefields remain in place, and a political solution to the impasse remains distant.

At the opening meeting last week, both sides agreed to discuss ways of preventing naval clashes along their poorly marked western sea border. The latest negotiations, held at the South's scenic Sorak Mountain (search), followed up on those discussions. They began Thursday morning and were scheduled for only one day, but dragged into the night with both sides failing to reach agreement.

The North Korean delegation headed home early Friday morning.

The talks came amid tension over North Korea's (search) nuclear aspirations. The two Koreas, the United States and three other regional nations are hoping to meet before month's end to discuss how to abolish the North's nuclear programs, perhaps in exchange for giving the impoverished country desperately needed economic or energy aid.

Both North and South want to avoid deadly naval firefights during the May-June crab-catching season, when fishing boats from the two countries jostle for position along the maritime border off the west coast. Navy boats from the two sides fought in 1999 and 2002.

Generals from the two sides met last week in the first such meeting since the peninsula was divided more than a half-century ago. The two Koreas technically remain at war because their 1950-53 Korean War ended without a peace treaty.

North Korea agreed to the unprecedented military dialogue after years of South Korean efforts to use economic incentives to coax the Pyongyang (search) regime out of its isolation.

The two Korean militaries seldom hold talks, although their governments have expanded economic and political exchanges in recent years. Their defense ministers met in September 2000.

North and South Korea often accuse each other of violating the western maritime border. The South recognizes a border demarcated by the United Nations after the end of the Korean War (search), but the North claims a boundary farther south.