SEOUL – 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 tensions.
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.
The United States believes the time is not ripe for inter-Korean talks as there are no signs that the North is prepared to halt its nuclear and missile development programs.
The South Korean government separately proposed reopening Red Cross talks to discuss ways to resume family reunions. The North has also not responded to this offer.