March 19, 2011

Korea: Both Sides May Team Up On Volcano Research

A Seoul, South Korea ministry said Friday that the country will consider a proposal from Pyongyang for joint research into volcanic activity in the peninsula's highest mountain.

The South's unification ministry said that discussions were under way among government agencies over whether to accept the proposal issued on Thursday for joint research on Mount Paektu.

"Our government understands that there must be inter-Korean cooperation as far as natural disasters are concerned," ministry spokesman Chun Hae-Sung told reporters.

"The South Korean government recognizes the need for inter-Korea cooperation regarding natural disasters such as volcanic activities and earthquakes," spokesman Chun Hae-sung said at a briefing in Seoul. "We will examine the North's proposal from this perspective."

The North's earthquake bureau said on Thursday that the two countries should jointly research the mountain on the border between North Korea and China given last weeks' earthquake and tsunami in Japan.

Experts say that the mountain has an active core, although the mountain has been inactive since its last eruption in 1903.

The 8,990-foot mountain has over a billion tons of water, which could flood surrounding areas.

Seoul blames Pyongyang's for the sinking of the Cheonan, which killed 46 South Korean sailors in the worst military attack on the South since the Korean war.  However, North Korea has denied its involvement in the activity.

The Korean peninsula remains in a technical state of war because of a three-year conflict that ended in 1953 in a truce, but not a peace treaty.  The U.S. has 28,500 troops stationed in South Korea to protect its ally against aggression.