South Korea proposes rare military talks with North at Panmunjom

Posted July 17, 2017

South Korea proposed on Monday talks with the North to ease tensions on the peninsula after the successful shot of a missile intercontinental by Pyongyang.

But Moon's overture, the first formal offer of talks since his inauguration in May, indicates he wants to use dialogue to defuse the global standoff over North Korea's weapons programs, despite having condemned the North's first intercontinental ballistic missile test on July 4 and vowed a firm response.

"North Korea should respond to our honest proposals if it really seeks peace on the Korean Peninsula", Cho Myoung-Gyon, Seoul's unification minister in charge of North Korea affairs, told reporters. It is North Korea that has been provocative with, for example, the bombardment of the South Korean island of Yeonpyeong in 2010.

The dialogue was aimed at stopping all hostile acts that escalate military tensions near the military demarcation line (MDL) dividing the two Koreas, the vice minister said. However, past history has shown that North Korea's leader, Kim Jong-un, is good at fooling the worldwide community with displays of fake goodwill - which risk Washington and Seoul relaxing their vigilance.

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This offer of a dialogue is the first since the arrival to power in may of president Moon Jae-In, perceived as more open to negotiation than his predecessor.

South Korea's policy is consistently centered on making the Korean Peninsula free from the threats of nuclear weapons and war, he said.

But so far the Kim Jong Un government has rejected most of these overtures. If realised, they would be the first for two years.

Pyongyang cut off military communication in the Yellow Sea (known as West Sea in Korea) in February previous year, in response to the South Korean government's unilateral decision to shut down the Kaesong Industrial Complex (KIC) that month.

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The two neighbours, which fought a war over the border in 1962, have a festering dispute along several areas of their 4,000km border.

Through the olive branch to follow up on Moon's peace overture, the South hopes to lay the groundwork for easing tension and opening additional dialogue meant to persuade it to suspend provocations, freeze its weapons of mass destruction program and expand inter-Korean economic cooperation.

Kim Hyun-wook, a professor at the Seoul-based Korea National Diplomatic Academy, expressed doubt that the talks proposed Monday would lead to a breakthrough since North Korea has made clear it's not interested in denuclearization and President Donald Trump's administration is moving forward with sanctions. It recent test of an ICBM put it one step closer to its goal of developing nuclear-armed missiles capable of reaching anywhere in the United States. It is anxious about an influx of refugees and possible USA troops stationed on its border in a unified Korea.

The two parties could at these meetings to negotiate, particularly in a first time the end of the propaganda operations carried out from both sides of the border, he estimated.

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