SEOUL (Reuters) - North Korean generals met the U.S.-led U.N. military command in South Korea for the first time in about seven years on Monday after Pyongyang warned at the weekend arrogant acts by U.S. troops could spark a war.
Local news reports said the North had protested against joint U.S.-South Korean military drills that will be held from next week and the activities of American troops stationed in South Korea to support its soldiers.
North Korea argued that holding the joint military training at a moment when the situation on the Korean peninsula is already tense would only raise more tension, the South's Yonhap news agency quoted a military source as saying.
The U.N. Command said the North requested the meeting but gave no details of the results of the talks held at the Panmunjom village inside the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) that has divided the peninsula since the 1950-53 Korean War ended in a ceasefire.
Prickly North Korea has stoked tensions in recent weeks by readying a test flight of its longest-range missile, which is designed to carry a weapon as far as Alaska but has never successfully flown, U.S. and South Korean officials have said.
North Korea also has severed dialogue with the South and threatened to reduce its neighbor to ashes in anger at President Lee Myung-bak's policy of cutting off what once had been a free flow of unconditional aid and instead tying handouts to the North's nuclear disarmament.
The North's KCNA news agency on Saturday quoted a North Korean military official as saying in a note to the South Korean military: If the U.S. forces keep behaving arrogantly in the area under the control of the North and the South, the (North's) Korean People's Army will take a resolute counteraction.
The official said U.S. troops had come near the actual border several times over the past two months, warning such acts may touch off unpredictable military conflicts.
The border, called the Military Demarcation Line, is at the center of the 4-km-wide DMZ -- a no man's land buffer zone. North Korea positions most of its 1.2 million troops near the DMZ.
North Korean, South Korean and U.S. soldiers are on their respective sides of the Military Demarcation Line on a daily basis in the Panmunjom village, where low-level meetings can be arranged by shouting into a bullhorn to the other side.
U.S.-led U.N. forces signed the armistice in 1953 and the United States has kept troops in the South after the fighting formally ended to deter North Korea from attacking again.
There are about 28,000 U.S. troops stationed in South Korea to support its 670,000 soldiers.
The North at the weekend denounced the South Korean-U.S. military drills as a prelude to an invasion. The annual drills have been held without major incident for years.
The new U.S. government will be sending Stephen Bosworth, its special envoy for North Korea, to the region this week with stops in China, Japan and South Korea, the State Department said.
In Seoul, Bosworth will likely meet Wi Sung-lac, a specialist in North American affairs and adviser to the foreign minister, who was named on Monday as South Korea's new chief to six-country talks on ending the North's nuclear program.
(Additional reporting by Jack Kim and Kim Junghyun; Editing by Dean Yates)