South Korea seeks rare talks with North to ease military tensions

South Korea's defense ministry called Monday for formal talks with its northern neighbor to be held on July 21 at Tongilgak, a North Korean building in the border town of Panmunjom where prior inter-Korea talks have been held.

The South also proposed separate talks by the rival states' Red Cross organisations to resume a humanitarian project to reunite families separated during the 1950-53 Korean War in closely supervised events held over a few days.

Vice Defense Minister Suh Choo Suk said the South's defense officials are proposing talks at the border village of Panmunjom on Friday to discuss how to end hostile activities along the border.

North Korea's state media hasn't immediately responded to South Korea's latest overtures.

North Korean Son Kwon Geun, center, weeps with his S Korean relatives as he bids farewell after the Separated Family Reunion Meeting at Diamond Mountain resort in North Korea.

As another follow-up measure to Moon's initiative, the South Korean Red Cross proposed to its DPRK counterpart holding humanitarian talks on August 1 at the Peace House, a building in the South Korean side of Panmunjom.

Pyongyang claimed the July 4 launch was particularly significant because it represented the first launch of a North Korean intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM).

Moon, who took power in May, has advocated dialogue with the nuclear-armed North as a means of bringing it to the negotiating table and vowed to play a more active role in global efforts to tame the South's unpredictable neighbour.

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It conducted the first test of an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) earlier this month, claiming to have mastered the technology to mount a nuclear warhead on the missile.

On Friday the U.S. army opened a new headquarters at the Camp Humphreys garrison in Pyeongtaek - just 200 miles south of North Korean capital Pyongyang.

"We want to cooperate with the worldwide community in opening up a more bright future with North Korea if North Korea chooses to take a right path", Cho said.

In the proposal for talks, South Korea did not elaborate on the meaning of hostile military activities, which varies between the two Koreas. South Korea usually refers to loudspeaker broadcasts and other provocations, while the North wants a halt to routine joint US-South Korea military drills.

In the six months to June, 593 Northerners entered South Korea, down 20.8 per cent from the same period in 2016, statistics compiled by Seoul's Unification Ministry showed.

Moon has suggested hostile military activities be halted at the inter-Korean border on July 27, the anniversary of the 1953 armistice agreement that ended the Korean War.

Previously, Pyongyang has repeatedly said it refuses to engage in talks with the South unless Seoul turns over 12 waitresses who defected to the South past year. The official also said, "At present, there are no specific plans for a meeting between the North and South Korean foreign ministers".

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