SEOUL-- South Korea's defense ministry on Friday pressed North Korea to hold bilateral military talks on easing border tension, as Pyongyang remained unresponsive to Seoul's latest dialogue offer.
The meeting was proposed for the day at the truce village of Panmunjom inside the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) in what would be their first military dialogue in almost three years.
But the North has kept mum on it, since the South delivered the overture Monday through media, with all formal inter-Korean hotlines severed.
"The North Korean side has not issued a position so far. Accordingly, it has become virtually difficult to open the talks today," Moon Sang-gyun, the ministry's spokesman, said in a statement.
He stressed the urgency of reducing military tensions and restoring a military communication channel between the two Koreas for the peace and stability of the peninsula.
"The Ministry of National Defense once again calls on the North to respond positively to our offer as soon as possible," he said.
The official said his ministry will continue to wait for the North's reply for several more days, adding the dialogue proposal is effective through next Thursday, when Korea marks the signing anniversary of the Korean War Armistice Agreement.
He pointed out President Moon Jae-in's remarks in his landmark peace overture made in Berlin earlier this month.
"July 27 this year marks the 64th anniversary of the Armistice Agreement. If the two Koreas, starting this day, stop all acts of hostility that escalate military tension on the (Military Demarcation Line), it will provide a meaningful opportunity to ease tensions between the two Koreas," the president said.
He was proposing a set of initial measures to ease inter-Korean tensions separate from denuclearization talks that would directly involve the United States, China and other regional powers.
In another follow-up to the speech, the South also suggested Monday that humanitarian talks with the North be held Aug. 1 to arrange the resumption of dayslong reunions of families separated by the 1950-53 Korean War. The North also has not replied.
The Unification Ministry, which is in charge of inter-Korean affairs, said it has no plan yet to make any additional proposal.
"The government believes it's important to make step-by-step efforts in a calm manner, rather than being swayed by each attitude of the North," its vice spokesperson Lee Eugene said at a press briefing.
The South's overtures of talks with the North marked the first by the left-leaning Moon administration, seeking to engage the nuclear-armed communist neighbor after a decade of animosities.
The North, ruled by the young and unpredictable leader Kim Jong-un, has taken a series of provocative acts, including nuclear tests and ballistic missile launches. The South's previous conservative governments were tough on Pyongyang.
South Korean officials say they won't undermine the U.N.-led sanctions on the North, adding eased military tension on the peninsula would be conducive to efforts for a diplomatic resolution to the nuclear issue.
North Korea watchers here pointed out the Kim regime seems to be interested in such a military meeting as it wants to curb the cross-border spread of propaganda leaflets and loudspeaker-using broadcasts.
In fact, the North has not rejected the dialogue offer.
The North seems to be prudent ahead of the start of the Ulchi-Freedom Guardian (UFG), an annual joint defense excise between South Korea and the U.S., in the middle of next month, according to Koh Yu-hwan, a professor at Dongguk University in Seoul.
"The North may believe that it would be better to talk (with the South) after the end of the UFG from a longer perspective," he said.
Source: Yonhap News Agency