Korea offers inter-Korean military, Red Cross talks

S. Korea seeks rare talks with North to ease military tensions
South asks North to hold military talks this week
Author

18 July, 2017

"The Defense Ministry proposes to hold a military talks between the two Koreas on July 21 at Tongilgak in North Korea to stop all hostile actions which heightens military tensions at the border", said Seoul's Vice Defense Minister Seo Joo-seok on Monday.

The government made a separate proposal on reopening Red Cross talks to discuss ways to resume family reunions on the occasion of the Chuseok holiday in early October.

As the North's leader Kim Jong-un addressed the 7th Congress of the Workers' Party of Korea in May a year ago, he voiced hope for military talks with the South, saying it would serve as an opportunity for comprehensive consultations on removing possible risks of an armed clash in the border area and easing tension. But the South's then-president, Park Geun-hye, a conservative who has since been impeached and removed from office, rejected the offer, calling it insincere and demanding that the North first move toward dismantling its nuclear weapons program.

Tongilgak is a North Korean building at the Panmunjom truce village on the border used for previous inter-Korea talks.

"We can not destroy - even over a few days - their infrastructure and their capability that they've been working [on] for the last 60 years", the national security expert argued.

South Korea's new defence chief Song Young Moo, formerly a Navy chief, on Monday stressed the importance of a strong military power to support peace efforts.

South Korea on Monday invited North Korea to participate in military talks, the first formal overture by newly elected President Moon Jae-in who promised an increased diplomatic outreach to the reclusive and volatile nuclear-armed regime to the north. South Korea has offered to talk with North Korea to ease animos.

Moon has suggested hostile military activities be halted at the inter-Korean border on July 27.

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While the two Koreas have a history of failing to follow through on some rapprochement agreements struck during their rare talks, any dialogue between the rivals is considered a positive step toward easing tensions.

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

The South's Red Cross delivered the offer of holding the talks on August 1 at the Peace House, a Panmunjom building controlled by the South.

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.

Numerous estimated 60,000 South Koreans that have signed up to participate in these sporadically held inter-Korean reunions are elderly and have had virtually no contact with relatives living in the repressive North where contact with the outside world is highly restricted.

The two Koreas restarted Cold War-era psychological warfare after the North's fourth nuclear test in January 2016.

The sporadically held reunions last took place at a mountain resort in North Korea in October 2015, when hundreds of elderly Koreans and their family members met their long-lost relatives for the first time since they were split during the Korean War.


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