South Korea gears up for military talks with North

South Korea gears up for military talks with North

by Yeo Jun-suk

SEOUL (The Korea Herald/ANN) - With North Korea’s high-level delegation having returned home after waging a peace offensive during the PyeongChang Olympics, South Korea is preparing to continue the momentum for an inter-Korean thaw by resuming long-stalled military talks.

Cheong Wa Dae and the ruling Democratic Party of Korea said that the resumption of military talks is crucial to easing cross-border tensions that have been lessened since the North Korean participation in the Winter Olympics.

“In order to move forward with exchanges and cooperation between the two Koreas, our urgent task is to hold military talks and reunions of separated families,” Rep. Woo Won-sik, the ruling Democratic Party floor leader, said Tuesday.

An anonymous senior Cheong Wa Dae official also said Tuesday that the two Koreas would begin with what they had agreed upon, adding future dialogue would begin with working-level military talks and proceed gradually to a more senior level, according to Yonhap News Agency.

In a rare inter-Korean talk held for the first time in about two years on Jan. 9, the two Koreas agreed to hold a military dialogue, with Pyongyang agreeing to send its delegates of athletes and a cheering squad to the Olympics.

South Korea’s Ministry of National Defense said the military is working on the military talks and waiting for North Korea to respond to the military dialogue proposal first made in July 2017.

“Although there has been no specific move (by North Korea), we are preparing for it,” Defense Ministry Spokesperson Choi Hyun-soo said during a press briefing.

The spokesperson also confirmed that the restored military hotline on the West Sea has been working without a hitch. Last month, the two Koreas restored the communication line that Pyongyang severed in 2016 to protest Seoul’s shuttering of a joint industrial complex north of the border in Kaesong.

While South Korea is likely to focus on implementing measures to prevent accidental skirmishes in the border region, there is the chance that North Korea might raise broader issues that could be sensitive to South Korea and the US.

Among them are the resumption of the joint South Korea and US military exercises, which the allies said would resume upon the conclusion of the Olympics and Paralympics in March. North Koreans have urged the allies to halt the drills, denouncing them as rehearsals for war.

Another point of contention is whether the two Koreas will suspend their cross-border propaganda broadcasts. North Korea threatened to shoot down South Korean speakers in August 2015, when the South began the broadcasts after border guards were maimed by land mines planted by the North.

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