Seoul Seeks New Talks With North Korea, Hoping To Tamp Down Tensions

Pauline Gross
July 18, 2017

Less than two weeks after North Korea's first intercontinental ballistic missile test, South Korea's new president has offered to hold talks at the tense border separating the two Koreas in what would be the rivals' first face-to-face meeting since late 2015.

This photo, taken on July 6, 2017, shows South Korean President Moon Jae-in delivering a speech in Berlin over his vision for bringing peace to the Korean Peninsula.

In a statement, Vice Defense Minister Suh Choo Suk said on Monday, that the South's defense officials are proposing talks to be held at the border village of Panmunjom on Friday aimed at ending hostile activities along the border.

If the meeting is to take place as planned, it would be the first dialogue between the military authorities of the two sides in nearly three years; their previous meeting was held on October 15, 2014. The acting president of the Korean Red Cross Kim Sun-hyang said it's rare to hold such briefings, but given the urgency, with most of the separated family members over age 80, the reunion of separated families is a critical humanitarian issue that comes before politics. Official talks between the sides have not been held since December 2015.

Tensions continue to escalate on the Korean Peninsula as North Korea conducts missile tests with increased frequency.

Ministers condemned North Korea's July 4 launch of an intercontinental range missile, saying it violated the country's global obligations and "represents a serious threat to worldwide peace and security".

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North Korea's state media didn't immediately respond to South Korea's proposals. It is anxious about an influx of refugees and possible U.S. troops stationed on its border in a unified Korea.

"The way to a peaceful Korea will not be smooth with the North's missile development and ever-changing worldwide affairs", Father Lee said.

Moon suggested earlier this month hostile military activities at the border be ended on July 27, the anniversary of the 1953 armistice agreement that ended the Korean War. -South Korea military drills. North Korea is seen as worrying that doing so could open the country to influence from more affluent South Korea and threaten the ruling party's grip on power.

Pyongyang has repeatedly said it refuses to engage in all talks with the South unless Seoul turns over 12 waitresses who defected to the South past year after leaving a restaurant run by the North in China.

In addition to existing sanctions, the statement said, the European Union "will consider further appropriate responses" in coordination with allies and United Nations efforts.

Other reports by GizPress

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