South Korea pro­poses mil­i­tary talks with North

The Buffalo News - - WORLD NEWS - By Choe Sang-Hun

SEOUL, South Korea – South Korea on Mon­day pro­posed hold­ing mil­i­tary and hu­man­i­tar­ian talks with North Korea, aimed at eas­ing ten­sions along their heav­ily armed bor­der and ar­rang­ing re­unions of fam­i­lies di­vided decades ago by the Korean War.

North Korea did not im­me­di­ately re­spond. Its re­ac­tion will be the first test of the pro-di­a­logue pol­icy of South Korea’s lib­eral new pres­i­dent, Moon Jae-in, who ar­gues that talks are the like­li­est way to end the cri­sis over Py­ongyang’s nu­clear weapons pro­gram.

The South wants to send a mil­i­tary del­e­ga­tion to the bor­der vil­lage of Pan­munjom on Fri­day to dis­cuss “stop­ping all hos­tile ac­tiv­i­ties that raise mil­i­tary ten­sion” along the bor­der, Vice De­fense Min­is­ter Suh Choo-suk said Mon­day.

Such a meet­ing would be the first be­tween the two govern­ments since 2015 and the first in­ter-Korean mil­i­tary di­a­logue since 2014.

The North Korean leader, Kim Jong Un, had pro­posed such talks in a May 2016 speech. 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.

Moon reaf­firmed his com­mit­ment to di­a­logue in a speech in Ber­lin this month, days af­ter Py­ongyang con­ducted its first test of an in­ter­con­ti­nen­tal bal­lis­tic mis­sile.

Suh, the vice de­fense min­is­ter, on Mon­day called on the North to re­store a mil­i­tary hot­line that Py­ongyang cut off in 2016, amid ten­sions fol­low­ing its nu­clear test in Jan­uary of that year. Without the hot­line, the two mil­i­taries have no means of com­mu­ni­cat­ing quickly and di­rectly to avoid an un­in­tended con­flict.

South Korea did not dis­close what specif­i­cally it wanted to dis­cuss if mil­i­tary talks were held. In past meet­ings, North Korea has de­manded that the South stop hold­ing joint mil­i­tary ex­er­cises with the United States and end the use of pro­pa­ganda loud­speak­ers.

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