SEOUL — South Korea on Friday urged North Korea to accept its offer of military talks aimed at reducing tensions along the border, describing it as a "very urgent task".
The statement was released by the South Korean Defense Ministry after North Korea remained unresponsive to Seoul’s proposal, made on Monday, that bilateral military talks be held on Friday at Tongilgak, a North Korean building in the truce village of Panmunjeom.
"The Defense Ministry once again urges North Korea to accept our proposal as soon as possible," the statement said, adding that it has become difficult for the talks to be realized Friday as Pyongyang has "not shown its position as of now".
Seoul’s overture came after North Korea claimed to have carried out its first test-firing of an intercontinental ballistic missile on July 4.
It was the first formal olive branch extended by the South Korean government of President Moon Jae-In.
"It is a very urgent task to ease tensions between the South and the North and reopen channel of dialogue in the military field for the sake of peace and stability on the Korean Peninsula," the statement said.
The United States, South Korea’s key ally, 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.
In announcing the proposal to the North, South Korean Vice Defense Minister Suh Choo Suk said earlier South Korea wants the meeting to help halt "all acts of hostility" near the Military Demarcation Line that bisects the two Koreas.
South Korea also called for restoration of cross-border military and government hotlines that North Korea severed last year.
The hotlines were severed in the wake of South Korea’s additional sanctions on North Korea over a nuclear test.
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.
The South’s Red Cross proposed holding the talks on August 1 at the Peace House, a Panmunjeom building controlled by the South.
If North Korea accepted the South’s offer for the military talks, it would have been the first official governmental talks between the two Koreas since vice ministerial talks were held in December 2015.
The temporary reunions of families that remain separated since the end of the Korean War were last held in October 2015. — KYODO