South Korea offers military, Red Cross talks with DPRK

Source: Xinhua| 2017-07-17 14:18:57|Editor: An
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SEOUL, July 17 (Xinhua) -- South Korea on Monday offered military and Red Cross talks with the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) to ease military tensions along the inter-Korean border and resume humanitarian exchange between peoples of the two sides.

Vice Defense Minister Suh Choo-suk said in a statement at the defense ministry that South Korea proposed to the DPRK for holding talks of the military authorities Friday at Tongilgak, a building in the DPRK side of the truce village of Panmunjom.

The dialogue was aimed to stop all hostile acts that escalate military tensions near the military demarcation line (MDL) dividing the two sides, the vice minister said.

Suh called on the DPRK to restore the military communications line in the western region to send a reply to South Korea's dialogue overture, expressing anticipation of the DPRK's positive response.

The dialogue overture was a follow-up measure to South Korean President Moon Jae-in's peace initiative, declared in Berlin on July 6, to stop all hostile acts along the inter-Korean border on the date of July 27 that marks the 64th anniversary of the cease-fire agreement ending the 1950-1953 Korean War.

In his Berlin speech, Moon also proposed holding Red Cross talks with the DPRK for the reunion of separate families of the two sides on Oct. 4 that marks the 10th anniversary of the Oct. 4 joint declaration and also the traditional Chuseok holiday.

The Oct. 4 declaration was the outcome of the inter-Korean summit that was held in Pyongyang in 2007 between then South Korean President Roh Moo-hyun and then DPRK leader Kim Jong Il, father of the current leader Kim Jong Un.

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

The dialogue was designed to hold a reunion event of families, who have been separated since the 1950-1953 Korean War ended in armistice, on the occasion of the Chuseok holiday in early October.

The latest inter-Korean contact was the vice ministerial-level talks that were held in December 2015. Since then, no dialogue has been held as the DPRK conducted its fourth and fifth nuclear tests in January and September last year and carried out a number of ballistic missile test-launches.

The last inter-Korean military contact was the closed-door meeting in October 2014.

If the DPRK accepts the dialogue proposal, it would mark the first inter-Korean talks since President Moon Jae-in took office on May 10.

All of inter-Korean communication channels were cut off following the shutdown in February last year of the Kaesong Industrial Complex, but the channels would probably be restored if Pyongyang accepts Seoul's dialogue overture.

The inter-Korean factory park in the DPRK's border town of Kaesong was the last remaining symbol of inter-Korean economic cooperation.

Local media speculations said the DPRK would accept the military talks with South Korea, rather than the dialogue offer for reunion of divided families, to stop propaganda broadcasts in frontline units of South Korea and anti-DPRK leaflets scattered by South Korean civic group activists toward the DPRK.

South Korea may want more to hold the humanitarian talks as most of the separated families are decrepit and old. President Moon vowed to push for cultural and personnel exchanges between the two sides regardless of political situations.

Whether Pyongyang would accept Seoul's dialogue offer remained uncertain ahead of the joint annual war game between South Korea and the United States, codenamed Ulchi Freedom Guardian (UFG).

The computer-assisted simulation exercise has been denounced by the DPRK as a dress rehearsal for the northward invasion.