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South Korea proposes rare military talks with North at Panmunjom

17 July 2017

Soon after holding office in May, South Korea's President Moon Jae-in had resolved to engage the North in dialogues in order to establish peace in the region.

Its aim is to halt "all acts of hostility" near the Military Demarcation Line (MDL) that bisects the two Koreas, the ministry said.

South Korea has sent a proposal to North Korea for talks on easing military tensions and the reunion of separated families, Seoul's Ministry of National Defense (MND) and the Red Cross said on Monday.

Elected in May 2017 with promises of engagement, Moon reiterated his preference at the G20 summit in Hamburg in early July for dialogue with the north despite its "nuclear provocation".

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Harris told the Asahi Shimbun daily that efforts to solve the North Korean nuclear issue by diplomatic means and sanctions will continue, but military options are always on the table and can be put into action at any time.

Mr Cho also urged the restoration of military and government hotlines across the border, which had been cut by the North previous year in response to the South imposing economic sanctions after a nuclear test by Pyongyang. Prospects for talks on family reunions are less good because North Korea has previously demanded that South Korea repatriate some North Korean defectors living in the South before any reunions take place, according to the analysts.

At a news briefing, South Korea's Unification Minister Cho Myoung-gyon added that talks could be a way to de-escalate the North Korean nuclear threat that has intensified in the wake of multiple missile tests over the past months. It was the Moon government's first formal proposal for talks with North Korea since its May 10 inauguration.

The threat from North Korea has already sent sales of underground bunkers soaring in Japan, a U.S. ally that is already within the range of missiles from Pyongyang.

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Outside experts believe the South Korean broadcasts and leaflets sting in Pyongyang more because the authoritarian country worries that the broadcasts will demoralize front-line troops and residents and eventually weaken the grip of absolute leader Kim Jong Un.

It conducted the first test of an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) earlier this month, claiming to have mastered the technology to mount a nuclear warhead on the missile.

South Korea did not disclose what specifically it wanted to discuss if military talks were held.

The last such meetings were held in 2015, when fewer than 100 elderly Koreans from each side were allowed to spend three days with their family members.

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South Korea proposes rare military talks with North at Panmunjom