Defense ministry refuses to confirm envisioned proposal for inter-Korean talks

SEOUL-- The defense ministry refused Monday to confirm if it has proposed a military meeting with North Korea, which it pledged to push for to ease cross-border tensions.

Last month, the ministry vowed efforts to hold military talks with the North on a regular basis by launching an inter-Korean military committee to discuss "any issues" to ease tensions and promote peace, setting it as a key policy goal for this year.

The plan has drawn keen attention as President Moon Jae-in said earlier that the committee could serve as an inter-Korean channel to discuss Seoul-Washington joint military exercises. Pyongyang has long demanded the exercises be halted.

"It is difficult to confirm if we've proposed an inter-Korean meeting and if North Korea has made any responses," ministry spokesperson Boo Seung-chan said in a regular briefing.

The two Koreas can communicate via inter-Korean military hotlines, or through a communication channel between the U.S.-led United Nations Command (UNC) and North Korea.

But the inter-Korean military hotlines have not worked since June last year, according to the spokesperson. Pyongyang severed them in anger over anti-Pyongyang leaflets sent across the border by activists here.

The potential talks could take place through their joint committee, which the two Koreas agreed to launch but which has not been realized.

South Korea and the U.S. are preparing for their springtime combined exercise in around March, according to officials, amid concerns the drills could give North Korea a pretext for provocations in the early months of U.S. President Joe Biden's administration.

Source: Yonhap News Agency

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