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Seoul suggests inter-Korean border talks

17 July 2017

Amid the growing tensions between the two neighboring countries, South Korea has proposed to hold military talks with Pyongyang next week.

Seoul also plans to propose Red Cross talks to North Korea to hold reunions of separated families.

"Kim Jong-un directly mentioned (the need for) inter-Korean military talks in the 7th Congress of the Workers' Party of Korea held last year, the first of its kind in 36 years", said Yang Moo-jin, a professor at the University of North Korean Studies.

The reunions are a highly emotional issue because most applicants are in their 70s or 80s and are desperate to see their loved ones before they die. Moon declared his willingness to work for peace with North Korea following his inauguration.

The last time the arch-rivals held military-level talks to ease tensions was in 2014 but they failed to reach an agreement then.

While Seoul will be hoping to discourage maritime border incursions and the North's alleged use of spy drones, Pyongyang has been also unhappy about South Korea's attempts to penetrate the reclusive state with propaganda broadcasts across the border.

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Tensions are now running high on the Korean Peninsula, after a year in which the North has carried out two nuclear tests and numerous ballistic missile tests despite global condemnation and United Nations sanctions. It is the first such offer under South Korea's new president, Moon Jae-in, who signaled his willingness to talk with Pyongyang during his campaign earlier this year.

Moon's four-point peace vision, described in a speech on July 6 at the Koerber Foundation in Berlin, during his trip to Germany for the Group of 20 summit, included the ease of military tensions near the inter-Korean border, a reunion of families separated by the Korean War, North Korea's participation in the 2018 PyeongChang Winter Olympics and inter-Korean dialogue.

"South Korean authorities should not persistently depend on outsiders...but opt for improving the North-South relations and achieving independent reunification by pooling efforts with the compatriots in the North". "The last such reunions were almost two years ago".

Pyongyang put the world on notice when it conducted its first successful test of the Hwasong-14 intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) on July 4. He had proposed dialogue and other modes of engagement with Pyongyang, including extending an invitation to North Korean delegates to the 2018 Winter Olympics that the South will be hosting in its Pyeongchang county.

A separated family reunion applicant corrects his information at the headquarters of South Korea's Red Cross in Seoul on Monday. Moon's two conservative predecessors suspended large aid shipments and major cooperation projects, and cross-border communication hotlines have been shut down.

Seoul suggests inter-Korean border talks