South Korea proposes military talks with North
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.