South Korea invites North Korea to security conference

SEOUL (AFP) - South Korea on Friday invited a North Korean vice defence minister to attend an international security conference in September in Seoul, despite cross-border military tensions, officials said.

The invitation was sent by South Korea's vice defence minister Baek Seung Joo to his North Korean counterpart through a military hotline, the South's defence ministry said.

The annual conference was launched in 2012 to enhance regional and global security cooperation, but North Korea has never been invited.

The previous sessions have covered such issues as global non-proliferation, cyber security and North Korea's nuclear and missile programmes.

South Korea has already sent invitations to 32 countries, including the United States, China and Japan.

There was no immediate response from Pyongyang.

Cross-border tensions have flared at regular intervals this year, with North Korea conducting a series of ballistic missile tests in anger at annual US-South Korean military exercises.

And Pyongyang was infuriated by the opening last month of a new UN office in Seoul to monitor North Korea's human rights record.

The most recent attempt at dialogue - a meeting between North and South officials over a protracted wage dispute at the jointly operated Kaesong industrial zone - ended on Thursday without any agreement.