South Korea Proposes Military, Red Cross Talks With N Korea


South Korea has proposed holding military talks with the North in an effort to deescalate tensions after Pyongyang's latest long-range missile test.

But Pyongyang has staged a series of missile launches in violation of United Nations resolutions, most recently on 4 July when it test-fired its first ICBM, a move which triggered global alarm and a push by the USA president, Donald Trump, to impose harsher United Nations sanctions on the country. South Korea has recently accused the North of sending military drones to spy on the South, an issue that Seoul would be likely to raise.

Separately, the Red Cross raised the possibility of a meeting with its North Korean counterpart on August 1 to discuss possible family reunions to coincide with shared holidays October 4.

Vice Defense Minister Suh Choo-suk told a briefing that South Korea proposed meeting Friday at the border village of Panmunjom, with the aim of suspending "all hostility against each other that escalates tensions at the military demarcation line".

Mr Cho also urged the restoration of military and government hotlines across the border, which had been cut by the North a year ago in response to the South imposing economic sanctions after a nuclear test by Pyongyang.

The election in May of Mr. Moon, a liberal human-rights lawyer, ended decades of conservative dominance in South Korea.

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The last inter-Korean governmental talks were held in 2015.

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".

Moon, who calls his predecessors' hard-line policies a total failure, has said he would employ both dialogue and pressure to resolve the North Korea standoff. But he has achieved little progress, with North Korea test-firing a series of newly developed missiles. But analysts say North Korea may accept the defense talks because it wants the South Korean army to halt loudspeaker broadcasts at the border that began after North Korea's fourth nuclear test in January 2016.

Previously, Pyongyang has repeatedly said it refuses to engage in talks with the South unless Seoul turns over 12 waitresses who defected to the South previous year.

If such activities pick up again in October as the South Korea's Red Cross hopes, they would be the first to take place in over two years.

When asked whether the South would "be flexible" on its joint military drills with the US, Cho responded that the issue was not one which Seoul had discussed directly yet.