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Seoul’s proposal on military and family reunion talks to Pyongyang

Seoul’s proposal on military and family reunion talks to Pyongyang

Posted July. 18, 2017 07:24,   

Updated July. 18, 2017 07:43


South Korea proposed an inter-Korean military meeting on July 21 and a Red Cross meeting on Aug. 1. It is a follow-up step of the peace initiative in which President Moon Jae-in proposed in Berlin to halt hostile military acts to mark the 64th anniversary of the July 27 Korean Armistice Agreement and to have a family reunion to celebrate the Chuseok holidays and the 10th anniversary of the Oct. 4 inter-Korean summit declaration. If the North accepts the offer, it will be the first inter-Korean meeting since the inter-Korean deputy ministerial meeting at the end of 2015. Yet, it remains to be seen whether it will take the offer.


South Korean Unification Minister Cho Myoung-gyun said that he would consistently work on it even if the North does not accept the offer immediately. The government seems to believe there is a chance given that the North actively responded to military talks in the past. The North cursed about the initiative, saying, “It is sophistry like sleep talking” or “It is a brazen face and shabby,” but added that it is rather comforting as (President Moon) is different from his predecessors. It is pathetic to see the South Korean government pin a hope on what it said, but it would more desirable if it can be a starting point to a shift from confrontations to dialogues and a turning point in the North Korean issue.


However, it is true that there are more worries than expectations. We hope military talks could restore the communications channel and discuss preventing actions escalating military tensions, but the North is likely to leverage it to demand for the suspension of the South Korea-U.S. Ulchi-Freedom Guardian exerciser be held next month, while asking Seoul to stop to send broadcast to the North using loudspeakers. Furthermore, North Korea may demand for the repatriation of 12 waitresses who defected to the South, as a precondition for a family reunion.  


While Minister Cho said the proposal could be an opportunity to create a virtuous cycle of inter-Korean relations and North Korean nuclear issues, it could rather weaken the coordination of the international community on North Korea if it is not aligned with the international community. The United Nations Security Council has been discussing sanctions on North Korea’s provocations and the U.S. is taking steps to a secondary boycott sanctioning entities and individuals transacting with the North in third countries.


The Moon administration stresses that South Korea is allowed to play a leading role in the inter-Korean relationship during the Korea-U.S. summit. However, Washington or the international community would not just wait and see inter-Korean talks making no progress in denuclearization. It should be our last time to court the North. Even if Pyongyang rejects the offer, Seoul should not beg it. Even if talks are held, Seoul should not allow Pyongyang to buy time or drive a wedge. Using both sanctions and dialogues are President Moon’s principle and promise in the North Korea policy presented to the international community at the G20 summit.