South Korea proposes rare military talks with North at Panmunjom

Cheryl Sanders
July 17, 2017

The Defense Ministry offered talks with Pyongyang counterparts Monday, while the National Red Cross floated reunion events for families split by decades of hostilities.

In an act to rein in North Korea, the USA is preparing new sanctions on Chinese banks and firms doing business with Pyongyang possibly within weeks, two senior United States officials said last week.

Elected in May 2017 with promises of engagement, Moon reiterated his preference at the G20 summit in Hamburg in early July for dialogue with the north despite its "nuclear provocation".

The North Korean government did not immediately respond to Moon's overtures.

North Korea is believed to possess hundreds of missiles capable of striking South Korea and Japan.

Seoul's proposal for two sets of talks indicates President Moon Jae-in is pushing to improve ties with Pyongyang despite the North's first intercontinental ballistic missile this month.

"We should keep on watching North Korea's response in the future, but we will persistently endeavor to make these proposals realized without fluctuating between joy and grief according to [the North's] response", Cho told media.

The South's defence ministry proposed a meeting on Friday at the border truce village of Panmunjom, while the Red Cross offered to hold talks on 1 August at the same venue.

The dialogue was created to hold a reunion event of families, who have been separated since the 1950-1953 Korean War ended in armistice, on the occasion of the Chuseok holiday in early October. On Saturday, its official Rodong Sinmun newspaper criticized Moon's approach as a "series of sleep-talking sophistries that create even greater hurdles" to talks.

South Korean Minister of Unification Cho Myong-gyon said on Monday the suspension of hostile acts and the reunion of the separated families are "the most urgent issues to ease tensions on the Korean Peninsula and to achieve the inter-Korean cooperation".

China has resisted USA calls for tougher sanctions, which it fears could destabilize Kim's regime.

Military talks are likely between South Korea and North Korea, as South has extended an offer to North in this regard, after weeks of test a long-range missile by Pyongyang.

Seoul and Pyongyang remain far apart on the prospects of an eventual peace deal.

Moon, who calls his predecessors' hard-line policies a total failure, has said he would employ both dialogue and pressure to resolve the North Korea standoff. Meanwhile, Moon has said peace would require the complete, verifiable and irreversible denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula. He said now was North Korea's last best chance to change direction.

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