Published: Tue, July 18, 2017
Worldwide | By Gretchen Simon

Korea's proposal for inter-Korean talks

The acting president of the South Korean Red Cross, Kim Sun-hyang, revealed the proposal in a news conference on Monday.

The proposed talks - which would be held Friday in the border town of Panmunjom, if accepted - would be the first face-to-face meeting between the two sides since 2015. In a recent speech in Berlin, Moon called for the two nations to open a dialogue with the aim of signing an official peace treaty.

There are also reports of increased activity at the Yongbyon uranium enrichment facility that could indicate plutonium production underway in the a year ago to further increase the North's nuclear weapons stockpile.

Since South Korean President Moon Jae-in took power in May, his government has tried to engage the North to reduce tensions, including offers of humanitarian aid, non-political exchanges and reviving the inter-Korean military hotline that Pyongyang cut off in early 2016 after Seoul shut down the jointly run Kaesong Industrial complex to punish the North for its nuclear testing and long-range rocket launches.

The South Korean defense ministry proposed talks with the North on July 21 at Tongilgak to stop all activities that fuel tension at the military demarcation line.

Separately, South Korea asked the Red Cross to deliver a proposal to reopen talks later this year on resuming reunions for relatives who were separated by the 1950-53 Korean War.

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The North's ICBM launch has stoked security worries as it showed the country could eventually ideal a reliable nuclear missile capable of reaching anywhere in the United States.

Moon has said he will use both dialogue and pressure to resolve the standoff over North Korea's nuclear and missile programs. "The military talks could be used as a stepping stone for progress".

But analysts say these could be highly fraught with Pyongyang still angry at the South's unwillingness to repatriate high-profile defectors.

North Korea says the South abducted the 12 waitresses and the restaurant manager and has demanded their return, but the South has said the group chose to defect of its own free will. Cho said this matter is not included on the talks agenda. Kim's statement suggested he will order more missile and nuclear tests until North Korea develops a functioning ICBM that can place the entire US within its striking distance.

The North has repeatedly announced its refusal to hold family reunion talks with Seoul, unless the South returns 13 people who Pyongyang says are abducted.

After the launch, the North Korean leader, Kim Jong-un, said he would never negotiate his weapons programmes unless the United States abandons its hostile policy toward his country.

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