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South Korea proposes military talks with North Korea amid growing hostility
17 July 2017, 08:39 | Floyd Cook
S Korea offers rare talks with North on tensions, family reunions
The South Korean defence ministry also proposed reconnecting a military hotline between the two sides, which was cut following North Korean missile and nuclear tests previous year.
Seoul also plans to propose Red Cross talks to North Korea to hold reunions of separated families.
South Korea's new government is making overtures to the North, proposing military talks at the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) that separates the two rivals.
"South Korea has no hostile policy toward North Korea as (the president) clearly stated in his Berlin doctrine that he will never pursue the collapse of North Korea and an absorption-based reunification", Unification Minister Cho Myoung-gyon said in a statement.
"And perhaps, if that went well, then it would set the scene for the Red Cross to be able to talk a bit more about the possibility of having family reunions this year", said Novak.
Some critics in South Korea and the United States opposed the Women Cross DMZ campaign, saying the activists' trip to North Korea would be used as propaganda by the North's repressive government.
If the talks are held, they would be the first meeting of such kind since 2015, BBC reported.
North Korea had accused the South of kidnapping the waitresses, while Seoul said they fled the hermit kingdom on their own.
The Defense Ministry offered talks with Pyongyang counterparts on Monday, while the National Red Cross floated reunion events for families split by decades of hostilities.
While in office, Ms. Park, who took a hard line on North Korea and its nuclear weapons program, had prevented South Korean nongovernmental organizations from making contact with the North.
North Korea didn't immediately respond to the latest offers.
Pyongyang has said it refuses to sit down for dialogue unless Seoul turns over 12 waitresses who defected to the South past year, which does not look likely.
The ministry wants Pyongyang to restore its military communication line with a view to meeting Friday, leaving flexibility for the agenda and level of officials who would lead the talks.
The stakes have risen for Trump after North Korea's first successful test on July 4 of a missile that could reach Alaska, if not continental America. The ministry also did not elaborate what it meant by hostile military activities.
Seoul's olive branch comes as US President Donald J. Trump signals frustration with the pace of efforts by China, North Korea's long-time ally and top trading partner, to pressure Kim back to the bargaining table. Most recently, Pyongyang claimed to have tested an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) capable of carrying a nuclear warhead. The two Koreas fought a war in the early 1950s, and have been at odds ever since the war ended. Pyongyang has maintained that family reunions - as well as further humanitarian cooperation - will not take place until the South returns 13 "abducted" defectors to the North.
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