SEOUL (Reuters) – South Korea’s proposed military talks aimed at easing tension between the two Koreas planned for Friday failed to happen after the North snubbed the call, a setback for new President Moon Jae-in’s hopes for dialogue.
The North has remained silent on the South Korean proposal, made on Monday, for talks on ways to avoid hostilities along their heavily fortified border.
Moon took office in May pledging to engage the North in dialogue, as well as to bring pressure on it to impede its nuclear and missile programs.
The proposal for talks came after the North said it conducted its first test of an intercontinental ballistic missile on July 4, and said it had mastered the technology to mount a nuclear warhead on it.
South Korean defense ministry spokesman Moon Sang-gyun told a briefing the military talks proposed for Friday were practically impossible as the North had not responded.
“It is an urgent needed task for peace and stability on the Korean peninsula to restore dialogue in the military area and to ease military tension between the South and the North,” he said.
Moon said the proposal for talks still stood and he urged the North to respond.
It was the first formal overture by South Korea since cross-border ties broke down early last year under the government of Moon’s predecessor, who imposed unilateral sanctions on the North for its nuclear tests and missile launches.
The North has conducted its fourth and fifth nuclear tests and a quick succession of missile-related activities since the beginning of 2016, after leader Kim Jong Un had pledged to improve ties with the South in a New Year’s address.
The South had proposed talks to discuss ways to end activities on the border that have fueled tension.
By that, South Korea usually refers to loudspeaker propaganda broadcasts by both sides, while North Korea wants an end to joint U.S.-South Korea military exercises.
Reporting by Jack Kim; Editing by Michael Perry, Robert Birsel