Sunday, 22 October, 2017

South Korea Proposes Military Talks with Pyongyang Later This Week

S. Korea seeks rare talks with North to ease military tensions South asks North to hold military talks this week
Connie Andrews | 18 July, 2017, 01:01

There was no immediate response from North Korea. The two sides technically remain at war but Moon, who came to power in May, has pledged to engage the North in dialogue as well as bring pressure to impede its nuclear and missile programmes.

Prospects for talks on family reunions are less good because North Korea has previously demanded that South Korea repatriate some North Korean defectors living in the South before any reunions take place, according to the analysts.

The defence ministry said Monday it's proposing talks at the border village of Panmunjom on Friday to discuss how to end hostile activities along the border.

North Korea's state media didn't immediately respond to South Korea's proposals.

But Moon's overture, the first formal offer of talks since his inauguration in May, indicates he wants to use dialogue to defuse the global standoff over North Korea's weapons programs, despite having condemned the North's first intercontinental ballistic missile test on July 4 and vowed a firm response.

"Meeting with their families while they are alive must be prioritized more than any other political concerns", said Kim Sun-hyang, acting president of South Korea's Red Cross.

There are also reports of increased activity at the Yongbyon uranium enrichment facility that could indicate plutonium production underway in the previous year to further increase the North's nuclear weapons stockpile. But he still has not backed off from his outreach to North Korea, arguing during a recent speech that both Koreas must stop hostile activities along the border and resume family reunions. The last time North Korean and South Korean military officials met was in December 2015.

The proposed dialogue would be aimed at decreasing the tensions in the region. North Korea says the South abducted the 12 waitresses and the restaurant manager and has demanded their return, but the South has said the group made a decision to defect of its own free will.

Meanwhile, it's quite uncertain whether the North will return to Red Cross talks.

North Korea has called for the suspension of South Korea-U.S. joint military exercises, but Pinkston said that is unlikely given Pyongyang's repeated ballistic missile launches, including the July 4 test of what some experts say was an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) with the potential range to reach Alaska, although the U.S. disputes this claim.

Those talks would be held on August 1, also in Panmunjom - that is, if Pyongyang accepts.

The two Koreas have been divided since the 1950-53 Korean War ended with an armistice, not a peace treaty.

If held, it would be the first dialogue between the military authorities of the two sides in nearly three years.

Those reunions, which have been held occasionally over the years, are a highly emotional issue and are widely seen as a barometer of inter-Korean relations.

The agenda for the military meeting could include moves to suspend propaganda campaigns operated on both sides of the border for years, Cheong added.

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