17 July, 2017
South Korea's government proposed on Monday to hold military talks with North Korea to reduce tensions between the two countries.
The South Korean defense ministry offered to hold a meeting Friday at the truce village of Panmunjom. The village sits along the border between the two sides.
South Korea's vice defense minister said the talks would seek "to stop all hostile actions which (heighten) military tensions at the border."
The meeting would be the first between Korean officials since December 2015.
North Korea has not yet answered the proposal.
In another development, the South Korean Red Cross has proposed to hold a meeting with North Korean officials on August 1. It also offered to hold the meeting at Panmunjom.
The purpose of that meeting would be to discuss restarting reunions for families separated by the Korean War. An estimated 60,000 South Koreans have sought to take part in the exchanges.
North Korea has called for the return of 12 North Korean female restaurant workers who fled to South Korea last year before family reunions can begin again.
South Korea, however, says the workers fled of their own free will.
Two track policy seeks talks while supporting restrictions
Efforts to restart military talks and family meetings follow South Korean President Moon Jae-in's attempts to develop a two-track policy.
South Korea's Unification Ministry says the latest proposals are consistent with Moon's policy.
"There is no change in our position that we will put forth effort to (persuade) North Korea to come out for denuclearization by using all possible measures such as sanctions and talks," South Korea's unification minister said.
Moon has supported a policy of engagement with the North Korean government. He is seeking to open talks with the North Korean government while supporting U.S.-led restrictions on North Korea.
The U.S. and United Nations Security Council have placed sanctions on the North for its long-range missile tests and nuclear weapons program.
North Korea's most recent missile test took place on July 4. Experts have said the missile could reach the U.S. state of Alaska.
Daniel Pinkston is a North Korea expert with Troy University in Seoul.
He said South Korea may be willing to take steps like suspending loudspeaker broadcasts across the border, which North Korea opposes.
"Once that is established, then both sides can understand what the other is seeking. They can signal to the other side what they want, what problems or issues they have with the other side," Pinkston said.
I'm Mario Ritter.
Chris Hannas and Brian Padden reported this story for VOA News with contributions from Youmi Kim. Mario Ritter adapted it for VOA Learning English. Ashley Thompson was the editor.
Words in This Story
Reunion –n. to meet again with family or people who share close ties after a long separation
two track –adj. using two policies to reach a goal
sanctions –n. measures taken against a country to cause it to obey international laws or requirements
consistent –adj. continuing to do things in a certain way, not changing
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