China Welcomes South Korea's Push for Talks With North Amid Nuclear Crisis

China Welcomes South Korea's Push for Talks With North Amid Nuclear Crisis

But Moon's overture, the first formal offer of talks since his inauguration in May, indicates he wants to use dialogue to defuse the worldwide standoff over North Korea's weapons programs, despite having condemned the North's first intercontinental ballistic missile test on July 4 and vowed a firm response.

"We make the proposal for a meeting. aimed at stopping all hostile activities that escalate military tension along the land border", the country's defense ministry said in a statement, according to the Agence France-Presse news service.

The Red Cross has proposed the reunions for October, during the Chuseok holiday.

South Korea proposed military talks and family reunions with North Korea on Monday to reduce the increasing potential for conflict over Pyongyang's continued development of nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles. The two sides technically remain at war but Moon, who came to power in May, has pledged to engage the North in dialogue as well as bring pressure to impede its nuclear and missile programmes.

Tongilgak is a North Korean building at the Panmunjom truce village on the border used in the past for inter-Korea talks.

The North has conducted two nuclear tests since the beginning of past year and missile-related activities at an unprecedented pace.

Observers say chances are relatively high that the North will agree to hold the military talks although it may counter-propose a date.

South Korea did not disclose what specifically it wanted to discuss if military talks were held.

The country's Red Cross also wants to open talks of its own "to discuss restarting reunions between families separated by the Korean War", NPR's Elise Hu notes.

Numerous estimated 60,000 South Koreans that have signed up to participate in these sporadically held inter-Korean reunions are elderly and have had virtually no contact with relatives living in the repressive North where contact with the outside world is highly restricted.

The vice defence minister did not elaborate on the meaning of hostile military activities, which varies between the two Koreas. Kim Jong Il, meanwhile, sent his premier, spy chief and other top officials to Seoul for talks.

While the two Koreas have a history of failing to follow through on some rapprochement agreements struck during their rare talks, any dialogue between the rivals is considered a positive step toward easing tensions.

North Korea has called for the suspension of South Korea-U.S. joint military exercises, but Pinkston said that is unlikely given Pyongyang's repeated ballistic missile launches, including the July 4 test of what some experts say was an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) with the potential range to reach Alaska, although the U.S. disputes this claim.

If held, it would be the first dialogue between the military authorities of the two sides in nearly three years.

The reunions are a highly emotional issue because most applicants are in their 70s or 80s and are desperate to see their loved ones before they die.

"Once that is established, then both sides can understand what the other is seeking".

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