South Korea has proposed holding inter-Korean military level talks with the isolated Kim Jong-un regime this week in an effort to reduce simmering tensions along the border shared by the neighbours.
The talks are expected to be held on Friday (21 July) and come as the latest attempt by Seoul to suspend "hostile activities" at their joint border and after a series of missile tests, including the recent launch of an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) by North Korea.
The government of President Moon Jae-in also made a separate proposal on reopening Red Cross talks to discuss ways to hold reunions of families separated by the Korean War in October.
The request to hold talks is the first such formal overture by the new South Korean administration. If held, it will also be the first such talks at government-level since December 2015, Reuters noted.
Seoul wants to have the meeting at Tongilgak, a North Korean building in the truce village of Panmunjom, the South Korean Ministry of National Defence said on Monday (17 July). The region was used for previous inter-Korea talks.
"We request military talks with the North on 21 July at Tongilgak to stop all hostile activities that raise military tension at the military demarcation line," South Korea's Vice Defence Minister Suh Choo-suk said.
The military demarcation line is the border that bisects the two Koreas.
However, it is not clear what the agenda of the meeting will be like. The ministry also did not elaborate what it meant by hostile military activities. But Reuters noted that such activities between the neighbours vary: the South usually refers to loudspeaker broadcasts and other provocations by the North, whereas Pyongyang wants US-South Korea joint military drills to be suspended.
"Talks and cooperation between the two Koreas to ease tension and bring about peace on the Korean peninsula will be instrumental for pushing forth a mutual, virtuous cycle for inter-Korea relations and North Korea's nuclear problem," South Korea's Unification Minister Cho Myoung-gyon told a news briefing.
The proposal to hold talks comes as a follow-up to Moon's recent peace overture made during a speech in Berlin on 6 July. He had proposed dialogue and other modes of engagement with Pyongyang, including extending an invitation to North Korean delegates to the 2018 Winter Olympics that the South will be hosting in its Pyeongchang county.
Moon had suggested that "all acts of hostile activities" at the inter-Korean border will be suspended on 27 July, when the two Koreas mark the 64th anniversary of the armistice treaty that ended the Korean War in 1953.
The last time the arch-rivals held military-level talks to ease tensions was in 2014 but they failed to reach an agreement then. Ever since, cross-border tensions have been rising following Pyongyang's relentless missile and nuclear activities.
Seoul has requested Pyongyang to respond to dialogue offers. But the isolated country, in the past, has repeatedly refused to engage in talks with Seoul unless the South hands over 12 waitresses who defected to Seoul last year.
North Korea had accused the South of kidnapping the waitresses, while Seoul said they fled the hermit kingdom on their own.