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Seoul urges Pyongyang to accept dialogue offer

South Korea on Friday urged North Korea to accept its offer of military talks and move to defuse tension as its initial plan for dialogue fell apart in the face of Pyongyang’s aloofness.

Seoul’s Ministry of National Defense has suggested the sides’ militaries hold talks Friday at the truce village of Panmunjom in the Demilitarized Zone for a halt in “all acts of hostility” starting Thursday, the 64th anniversary of the armistice agreement.

But Pyongyang continued to remain silent, much to the dismay of the Moon Jae-in administration seeking an inter-Korean thaw as one of its key initiatives. 

Defense Ministry spokesperson Moon Sang-gyun speaks at a press conference at the ministry's head office in Seoul on Friday (Yonhap)
Defense Ministry spokesperson Moon Sang-gyun speaks at a press conference at the ministry's head office in Seoul on Friday (Yonhap)

“The North has not yet presented its position so far. Therefore it has become virtually difficult to have the talks today,” ministry spokesman Moon Sang-gyun said at a news conference.

“It’s an extremely urgent task for peace and stability of the peninsula that the two Koreas ease military tension and restore dialogue channels in the military areas. We once again urge the North to respond positively to our proposal as soon as possible.”

At a meeting with reporters, Moon said the offer will remain “valid” until Thursday, expressing the administration’s willingness to react flexibly according to the North’s attitude.

The military talks would also affect Seoul’s separate proposal that the sides’ Red Cross officials meet on Aug. 1 to arrange a fresh round of reunions of families split by the 1950-53 Korean War on Oct. 4, which marks the Chuseok holiday and 10th anniversary of an inter-Korean peace declaration.

The Ministry of Unification here also called for the North’s answer, dismissing the possibility for any additional offer or adjustment for the time being.

“It’s necessary for us to make step-by-step efforts in a calm manner. ... We expect the North’s swift, positive response,” deputy ministry spokesperson Lee Eugene said at another briefing, noting there is no “deadline” for cross-border dialogue.

With Pyongyang apparently giving the cold shoulder, the outlook is growing gloomy for the Moon administration’s resolve for inter-Korean rapprochement.

The Rodong Sinmun, the North’s ruling Workers’ Party mouthpiece, brushed off Seoul’s drive Thursday, saying in an editorial that it is “nonsense” for the South to float an inter-Korean thaw while publicly displaying its hostilities and ambition for confrontation.

By Shin Hyon-hee (heeshin@heraldcorp.com)
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