South Korea Proposes Military Talks With North at Their Border

Posted July 18, 2017

Also Monday, the South Korean Red Cross Society proposed a meeting at Panmunjom on August 1 with its North Korean counterpart, to arrange reunions of relatives in the North and South who have not seen each other since being separated during the 1950-53 Korean War.

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

South Korea on Monday offered to hold military discussions with North Korea for the first time in almost three years in an effort to reduce tensions on the Korean peninsula. Seoul suggested that the talks between representatives of the two countries' armies be held at the Demilitarized Zone, which separates the two foes on the Korean Peninsula.

It is the first such offer under South Korea's new president, Moon Jae-in, who signaled his willingness to talk with Pyongyang during his campaign earlier this year. Official talks between the sides have not been held since December 2015. Neither did President Trump, who has pursued a more hawkish policy toward North Korea and promised "very severe things" in response to recent long-range missile tests.

China's foreign ministry welcomed South Korea's dialogue offer, saying that the move will help ease tensions on the divided peninsula.

The North has conducted two nuclear tests since the beginning of a year ago and missile-related activities at an unprecedented pace.

But Pyongyang has staged a series of missile launches in violation of United Nations resolutions - most recently on July 4 when it test-fired its first ICBM, a move which triggered global alarm and a push by US President Donald Trump to impose harsher United Nations sanctions.

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

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 current security situation on the Korean Peninsula is serious enough to be called "the worst security crisis" since the (1950-53) Korean War", he told Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) service members.

But so far the Kim Jong Un government has rejected most of these overtures. Seoul began blaring anti-Pyongyang broadcasts and K-Pop songs via border loudspeakers, and Pyongyang responded with its own border broadcasts and launches of balloons carrying anti-South leaflets.

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.

"There is no change in our position that we will put forth effort to (persuade) North Korea to come out for denuclearization by using all possible measures such as sanctions and talks", said South Korean Unification Minister Cho Myung-kyun.