S Korea urges N Korea to accept military talks offer

North Korea has not replied to calls for talks and separate offers to negotiate the reunification of divided families.

    Recent months have seen soaring tensions on the Korean Peninsula [File: Yonhap/EPA]
    Recent months have seen soaring tensions on the Korean Peninsula [File: Yonhap/EPA]

    South Korea has urged North Korea to break its silence on an offer of military talks aimed at easing simmering tensions over the hermit state's nuclear ambitions.

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    Seoul had proposed to hold rare inter-Korea talks this week at the border truce village of Panmunjom to ease hostilities after a series of missile tests this year.

    "It is an urgent task to reduce tension between two Koreas... to achieve peace and stability of the Korean Peninsula," defence ministry spokesman Moon Sang-Kyun said.

    "We urge the North again to respond to our talks proposal," he said.

    The military talks, if realised, would have marked the first official inter-Korea talks since December 2015.

    North Korea has also remained silent on another offer made by the South Korea's Red Cross to meet on August 1 and discuss potential reunions for families separated by the 1950-53 Korean War.

    Millions of families were separated by the conflict that sealed the division of the peninsula. Many died without getting a chance to see or hear from their relatives on the other side of the border, across which all civilian contacts are banned.

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    Al Jazeera's Kathy Novak, reporting from Seoul, says "there has been no answer on the other [northern] side".

    Explaining that North Korea is currently enduring a drought that has crippled crop productions, she said: "This brings back memories of the devastating famine that North Korea experienced two years ago."

    Rapprochement 

    Monday's twin proposals are the first concrete steps towards rapprochement with North Korea since South Korea elected dovish President Moon Jae-In in May.

    Moon has advocated dialogue with nuclear-armed North Korea to bring it to negotiating table and vowed to play a bigger active role in global efforts to reach a resolution. 

    His conservative predecessor Park Geun-Hye had refused to engage in substantive dialogue with Pyongyang unless it made a firm commitment to denuclearisation.

    But Pyongyang has staged a series of missile launches in violation of UN resolutions in recent months - including its first ICBM test on July 4 that triggered global alarm and a push by US President Donald Trump to impose harsher UN sanctions.

    What will more sanctions mean for North Koreans? - Inside Story

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera and news agencies


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