Seoul proposes military talks with Pyongyang

Seoul, July 17 (IANS) South Korea on Monday offered to hold military discussions with North Korea for the first time in nearly three years in an effort to reduce tensions on the Korean peninsula.

Seoul’s proposal, which comes after months of repeated nuclear weapons tests by Pyongyang, would be the first government-level talks between the two Koreas since 2015, reports Efe news.

South Korea has suggested holding a meeting on Friday in the so-called Joint Security Area in the Korean Demilitarised zone, the de-facto border between the two countries, according to Deputy Defence Minister Suh Choo-suk.

It is the first formal offer of military talks since South Korean President Moon Jae-in came to power in May, who pledged to reduce friction and engage with Pyongyang during his successful election campaign.

Last week during a trip to Berlin, Moon delivered a speech in which he stressed the importance of dialogue in the face of increasing tensions and the North’s nuclearisation.

At a press conference on Monday, South Korea’s Unification minister Cho Myoung-gyon expressed hope that Pyongyang would respond positively to the proposal, and underlined the importance of military authorities from both sides cooperating to reduce the risk of incidents that could further escalate bilateral tensions.

The proposed meeting would aim to end “all acts of hostility” along the border.

Seoul has not provided any information on an agenda, nor has it indicated what rank of representatives would attend the proposed meeting.

If Seoul’s offer is accepted by Pyongyang, it would be the first meeting of the two countries’ military authorities since October 2014.

In addition to the potential reopening military talks, the South Korean Red Cross on Monday proposed talks with Pyongyang to once again organise reunions of families who were separated during the Korean War (1950-1953).

The Red Cross has proposed the reunions for October, during the Chuseok holiday.

The armed conflict between both countries ended with a cease-fire in 1953, but no formal peace treaty was ever signed, meaning the neighbouring countries technically remain at war.

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