No Korean military talks after North snubs South's call

North Korean soldiers look across a concrete border as a South Korean soldier (right) stands guard at the truce village of Panmunjom.
North Korean soldiers look across a concrete border as a South Korean soldier (right) stands guard at the truce village of Panmunjom. PHOTO: REUTERS

SEOUL (REUTERS) - South Korea's proposed military talks aimed at easing tensions between the two Koreas planned for Friday (July 21) failed to take place after the North snubbed a call by the South, a setback for new President Moon Jae In's hope of engaging Pyongyang in dialogue.

Defence Ministry spokesman Moon Sang Gyun told a briefing the military talks it proposed to be held on Friday were practically impossible as the North has not responded. 

Moon Sang Gyun said restoring dialogue with North Korea was urgently needed to ease military tension and called on Pyongyang to respond to its proposal for talks.  

Moon Jae In took office in May pledging to engage the North in dialogue, as well as bring pressure to impede its nuclear and missile programmes.

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The talks proposal came after the North claimed to have conducted the first test of an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) earlier this month, and said it had mastered the technologies to mount a nuclear warhead on the missile.

It was the first formal overture by Seoul after cross-border ties broke down early last year under the government of Moon's predecessor, who imposed unilateral sanctions on the North for its nuclear tests and missile launches.

The North has conducted its fourth and fifth nuclear tests and a quick succession of missile-related activities since the start of 2016, after its leader Kim Jong Un pledged to improve ties with the South in his New Year's day address.

On Monday the South proposed the military talks to discuss ceasing activities at the border that have fuelled tension.

By those activities, South Korea usually refers to loudspeaker propaganda broadcasts by both sides, while North Korea wants a halt to routine joint US-South Korea military drills.