World

Korean talks 'practically' impossible as North ignores deadline

SEOUL: Time ran out yesterday on a proposal for rare inter-Korean military talks, with the North refusing to respond to the South's offer to open dialogue to ease simmering tension.

Seoul had proposed to hold the rare talks this week at the border village of Panmunjom to ease hostilities after a series of missile tests this year.

But the North has remained silent, prompting the South's defence ministry to admit that it was "practically" impossible for the meeting to go ahead.

"It is an urgent task to reduce tension between two Koreas... to achieve peace and stability of the Korean peninsula," a ministry spokesman said. "We urge the North again to respond to our talks proposal."

The military talks would have marked the first official such talks since December 2015.

The North has also kept mum on an offer by the South's Red Cross to discuss on August 1 reunions for families separated by the Korean War, which ran from 1950 to 1953.

Millions of families were separated by the conflict. Many have died without getting a chance to see or hear from their relatives on the other side of the border.

A senior North Korean official told AFP last month that Pyongyang would rule out any more family reunions unless Seoul returns a group of North Koreans who defected to the South last year.

Monday's proposals are the first steps towards rapprochement with the North since South Korea elected dovish President Moon Jae In in May.

Mr Moon has advocated dialogue with the nuclear-armed North to bring it to the negotiating table and vowed to play an active role in global efforts to tame the regime.

His conservative predecessor Park Geun Hye had refused to engage in substantive dialogue with Pyongyang unless it made a firm commitment to denuclearisation. - AFP

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