South Korea offers direct talks with the North

The talks at Panmunjon would be aimed at ending "hostile acts" between the two, which "escalate military tension", according to a statement from South Korean Deputy Defense Minister, Seo Joo-seok.

The meeting, proposed by the ministry would be the first meeting Korean official since December 2015.

"North Korea should respond to our honest proposals if it really seeks peace on the Korean peninsula", Cho Myoung-gyon, South Korea's minister for unification, said. The reunions are widely seen as a barometer of inter-Korean relations.

This computer generated image shows South Korea and North Korea shaking hands. Seoul suggested that the talks between representatives of the two countries' armies be held at the Demilitarized Zone, which separates the two foes on the Korean Peninsula.

Cho, whose office handles ties with the North, said South Korea does not have a hostile policy against North Korea and does not seek North Korea's collapse or unification through absorption.

Tensions are now running high on the Korean Peninsula, after a year in which the North has carried out two nuclear tests and numerous ballistic missile tests despite global condemnation and United Nations sanctions.

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Indeed, the Ministry of Unification is viewing North Korea's first response to the Berlin Vision - published in the Rodong Sinmun newspaper on July 15 in the name of a member of the North Korean public - as "not entirely negative". A previous joint event was held in October 2015 to arrange the reunion of families separated by the 1950-1953 Korean War. North Korean state media later quoted some of the activists as praising the country's leaders, but organizers denied that the remarks had been made.

The stakes have risen for Trump after North Korea's first successful test on July 4 of a missile that could reach Alaska, if not continental America.

Washington and Seoul have further angered Pyongyang by the controversial deployment of the so-called Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) missile system to the restive peninsula to counter what they call the North's "threats". The two declarations aim to foster cross-border cooperation, exchanges and reconciliation. Ms. Ahn said there were no indications that Ms. Wright or any of the other activists would be barred from South Korea.

Moon, who took power in May, has advocated dialogue with the nuclear-armed North to bring it to the negotiating table and vowed to play a more active role in global efforts to tame the South's unpredictable neighbour.

There are also reports of increased activity at the Yongbyon uranium enrichment facility that could indicate plutonium production underway in the a year ago to further increase the North's nuclear weapons stockpile.

(Copyright © 2015. All Rights Reserved.)
 
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