China welcomes South Korea's proposal to hold talks with Pyongyang


Less than two weeks after President Moon Jae-in described a vision for inter-Korean peace during a speech in Berlin, the South Korean government formally asked North Korea on Monday to hold military talks at the end of this week and discuss a reunion for families next month who were separated by the 1950-53 Korean War.

At the start of the meeting, Kang said that human rights in North Korea remains to be a "matter of great concern" to the South Korean government under President Moon Jae-in and the stance will remain in its discussion at the United Nations going forward.

The meeting is meant to come to an agreement to stop all hostile activities that increase military tension along the border between the North and South.

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"I believe this is a great opportunity for me to hear from different authorities of this new government about their approach and their policies toward the human rights situation (in the North)", he said.

There was no immediate response from North Korea.

But over the past decade, the sides have pulled back on talks and reconciliation programs, though there have been some high-profile meetings to try to reach a breakthrough in strained ties or pull back from the brink. The last such talks were held in December 2015.

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The two Koreas restarted Cold War-era psychological warfare after the North's fourth nuclear test in January 2016. North Korea has yet to respond to the latest overture.

North Korea will likely accept Moon's proposed talks on easing border animosities, as it's something that it's previously called for. "We considered [the proposal] because [a halt] is something that North Korea also agrees with and thinks is important", explained an administration official. On the North Korean side, they are likely to demand a halt to the joint military drills between Seoul and Washington for the talks to resume.

On the separate offer to hold family reunions, the Korean Red Cross asked the North to hold relevant talks on August 1 at the Peace House, a South Korea-controlled building in the truce village, known as the equivalent to North Korea's Tongilgak.

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Russia's government has other reasons for staking out a different position from Washington on the North Korean question. Since Kim Jong Un took power in 2012, North Korea has noticeably ramped up its rate of missile and nuclear testing.

South Korea offered North Korea to hold talks on the settlement of the ongoing disputes at a level of defense ministers of both countries in the border village of Panmunjom on July 21, Yonhap news agency reported earlier on Monday. North Korea is seen as worrying that doing so could open the country to influence from more affluent South Korea and threaten the ruling party's grip on power.