North Korea's main mouthpiece has rejected Seoul's call for inter-Korean military talks and said the offer is "nonsense". A report on Rodong Sinmun said the southern rival should not hope for discussions amid the heavy sanctions imposed on the North.
As part of South Korea's new government's overtures, Seoul invited Pyongyang to hold talks at the demilitarised zone (DMZ), the world's heavily guarded border, on Friday, 21 July. The Moon Jae-in administration's invitation was aimed at defusing rising tensions in the Korea peninsula amid North Korea's defiant weapons programme.
Responding to Seoul's offer, the North Korean state-run newspaper said the southern neighbour should rethink about its relations with the US before approaching Pyongyang for talks.
"Ditching confrontation and hostility is a precondition for opening the door for the two Koreas' reconciliation and unity," said the daily. The South Korea government has pledged to pursue a dual-track approach – simultaneously demanding denuclearisation and better the relations through dialogue – while handling North Korea.
When asked about the media report's rejection of talks on Thursday, 20 July, a South Korean unification ministry official said it does not necessarily reflect the stance of the regime.
"But it is important for South and North Korea to take initiative in resolving issues on the Korean Peninsula. There is no deadline for Seoul's efforts (to improve ties) via dialogue," the official told the Yonhap news agency adding that there is no official communication from the North Korean regime as yet.
Both Japan and the US – key adversaries of North Korea – had expressed scepticism when Seoul proposed talks amid simmering tensions in the region.
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe stressed this is not the right time for dialogue with North Korea, but only to put more pressure on the regime so as to force Pyongyang to scale down its nuclear and missile activities.
The White House also stopped short of lending support to South Korea's talks offer. "I think the president [Donald Trump] has made clear in the past with respect that any type of conditions that would have to be met are clearly far away from where we are now," said White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer.