S Korea offers rare talks with North on tensions, family reunions

Michele Moreno
July 17, 2017

Officials of the Korean Red Cross receive phone calls at their headquarters in Jung District, Seoul, on Monday after the South Korean agency proposed inter-Korean talks on materializing separated family reunion sessions.

The offer of talks, the first since South Korea elected dovish President Moon Jae-In, came as the Red Cross in Seoul proposed a separate meeting to discuss reunions of families separated by the 1950-53 Korean War.

The proposals were separately announced to local media by the Ministry of National Defense and the Korean Red Cross, the latter of which organizes the family reunions.

The two Koreas restarted Cold War-era psychological warfare after the North's fourth nuclear test in January 2016.

Those reunions, which have been held occasionally over the years, are a highly emotional issue and are widely seen as a barometer of inter-Korean relations.

Seoul wants to hold a meeting Friday in the truce village of Panmunjom aimed at halting "all acts of hostility" near the Military Demarcation Line that divides peninsula, the defense ministry said Monday.

As another follow-up measure to Moon's initiative, the South Korean Red Cross proposed to its DPRK counterpart holding humanitarian talks on August 1 at the Peace House, a building in the South Korean side of Panmunjom.

Military talks are likely between South Korea and North Korea, as South has extended an offer to North in this regard, after weeks of test a long-range missile by Pyongyang.

Cho said the South was proposing the talks due to the "urgency of the issue" rather than the possibility of a positive response from Pyongyang, adding that the South's "initiative is needed to restore inter-Korean talks".

Tensions continue to escalate on the Korean Peninsula as North Korea conducts missile tests with increased frequency. When asked whether Seoul consulted with Washington, Cho replied that the countries "mutually cooperated" on the matter.

If the talks are held, loudspeaker broadcasts, leafleting and South Korea-U.S. drills are expected to top the agenda.

In his Berlin speech, Moon also proposed holding Red Cross talks with the DPRK for the reunion of separate families of the two Koreas on October 4 that marks the 10th anniversary of the October 4 joint declaration and also the traditional Chuseok holiday. Beijing has been joined by Moscow in its "suspension-for-suspension" proposal, in which North Korea suspends weapons tests while South Korea and the US defer further large-scale military exercises.

"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. South Korea has said there are no legal grounds for sending her back to the North.

Other reports by Insurance News

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