News / Asia

    South Korea Agrees to High-Level Military Talks with North

    Anti-war activists attend a rally opposing South Korea's planned firing drill on Yeonpyeong Island, in front of the defense ministry in Seoul, 20 Dec, 2010.
    Anti-war activists attend a rally opposing South Korea's planned firing drill on Yeonpyeong Island, in front of the defense ministry in Seoul, 20 Dec, 2010.

    South Korean officials say they have tentatively accepted a North Korean proposal to hold high-level military talks.

    The meetings would be the first known talks between the two countries since tensions flared over a deadly North Korean military attack on a South Korean island in November.

    The South Korean government had rejected a series of previous offers for talks from the North as "insincere" propaganda efforts, though none is believed to have come at such a high level.

    To find out what may have led to the apparent breakthrough, VOA's Sarah Williams spoke with our correspondent in Seoul, Steve Herman.

    What do we know about the North Korean offer?

    "The North Koreans, according to South Korea, proposed military talks with South Korea, and then, shortly after that announcement, the South Koreans said that they had tentatively accepted this North Korean offer to hold the high-level defense talks. And that is coming from both the defense ministry and the unification ministry, but we’re not expected to get any details until mid-Friday morning our time here in Seoul."

    South Korea has rejected previous offers for talks.  Any idea why they’re apparently accepting it now?

    "We’ve detected a shift in the mood here in Seoul in recent days, especially early in the day, I had spoken with a senior government official at the presidential Blue House who told me that an apology for the provocations last year was not necessarily a prerequisite to holding talks.  So, that was certainly a signal of a softening of stance. Now, what they are saying is that most definitely that the agenda for these talks must include assurances from Pyongyang that it will act responsibly and there won’t be these sorts of provocations again in the future. So, we’ve definitely seen these sorts of steps forward, a significant step forward, but there’s still a long way to go before we’re actually going to see talks. The North Koreans go back and forth on things like this, there’s a lot of conditions on both sides may make.  So, even though we now have the South seemingly accepting the North’s offer, that doesn’t mean that the talks will actually happen. I think that there’s history on our side if we’re going to be skeptical about this.  But it’s definitely looking much more positive as far as a significant ratcheting down of the tensions... [that] would be a quite an accurate description at this point."

    Seoul has historically provided food and economic assistance to the North, but they halted that assistance last year. Is there any sign that the North is more desperate for that aid and, thus, more willing to talk?

    "We know that conditions are more difficult in North Korea and also analysts say that the North Koreans do not like being overly dependent on the Chinese, which is the situation that they’re certainly in now. But the senior government official that I spoke with earlier in the day at the presidential Blue House said that we’re not going to see a repeat of the history of the pattern of the last 20 or 30 years, where there’s some sort of talks and immediately aid and even money is offered to the North Koreans. He was very adamant that no matter what, just because they’re going to be talking, there’s not going to be a resumption of aid and that is not going to happen until the North Koreans meet certain benchmarks with their nuclear program.  So, quite [that is] a hard line relatively, compared to past administrations as far as any potential aid going back from the South to the North."

    As you mentioned, South Korea has been rattled in the past year, first by the sinking of the Cheonan, then by the North’s artillery attack on South Korea's Yeonpyeong Island in late November. Have things settled down, or are people worried about a possible new conflict?

    "Well, life goes on as normal in South Korea. This has been the sort of status quo since 1953, since the truce at Panmunjom. There’s never been a peace treaty between the North and South and intentions have been a sort of roller coaster ride over the past six decades. Obviously, people were very upset by what happened last year, and especially the first attack since the Korean War of artillery being fired on South Korean soil and civilians killed, although we’ve had other incidents blamed on North Korea over the years in which civilians have died.  But that incident especially did rattle people. However, I think most people would like to see a peaceful resolution of this problem.  But there are very hardened attitudes after the Yeonpyeong island shelling about North Korea, and I think that a lot of people have become much more hard line in their approach towards the communist North since that incident."

    You May Like

    Chechen Suspected in Istanbul Attack, but Questions Remain

    Turkish sources say North Caucasus militants involved in bombing at Ataturk airport, but name of at least one alleged attacker raises doubts

    With Johnson Out, Can a New ‘Margaret Thatcher’ Save Britain?

    Contest to replace David Cameron as Britain’s prime minister started in earnest Thursday with top candidates outlining strategy to deal with Brexit fallout

    US Finds Progress Slow Against Human Trafficking in Africa

    Africa continues to be a major source and destination for human trafficking of all kinds -- from forced labor to sexual slavery, says State Department report

    This forum has been closed.
    Comments
         
    There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Clinton Leads Trump, But Many Voters Don't Like Eitheri
    X
    Jim Malone
    June 29, 2016 6:16 PM
    In the U.S. presidential race, most recent polls show Democrat Hillary Clinton with a steady lead over Republican Donald Trump as both presumptive party nominees prepare for their party conventions next month. Trump’s disapproval ratings have risen in some recent surveys, but Clinton also suffers from high negative ratings, suggesting both candidates have a lot of work to do to improve their images before the November election. VOA National correspondent Jim Malone has more from Washington.
    Video

    Video Clinton Leads Trump, But Many Voters Don't Like Either

    In the U.S. presidential race, most recent polls show Democrat Hillary Clinton with a steady lead over Republican Donald Trump as both presumptive party nominees prepare for their party conventions next month. Trump’s disapproval ratings have risen in some recent surveys, but Clinton also suffers from high negative ratings, suggesting both candidates have a lot of work to do to improve their images before the November election. VOA National correspondent Jim Malone has more from Washington.
    Video

    Video Slow Rebuilding Amid Boko Haram Destruction in Nigeria’s Northeast

    Military operations have chased Boko Haram out of towns and cities in Nigeria’s northeast since early last year. But it is only recently that people have begun returning to their homes in Adamawa state, near the border with Cameroon, to try to rebuild their lives. For VOA, Chris Stein traveled to the area and has this report.
    Video

    Video New US Ambassador to Somalia Faces Heavy Challenges

    The new U.S. envoy to Somalia, who was sworn into office Monday, will be the first American ambassador to that nation in 25 years. He will take up his post as Somalia faces a number of crucial issues, including insecurity, an upcoming election, and the potential closure of the Dadaab refugee camp in Kenya. VOA’s Jill Craig asked Somalis living in Kenya’s capital city Nairobi how they feel about the U.S. finally installing a new ambassador.
    Video

    Video At National Zoo, Captivating Animal Sculptures Illustrate Tragedy of Ocean Pollution

    The National Zoo in Washington, D.C., is home to about 1,800 animals, representing 300 species. But throughout the summer, visitors can also see other kinds of creatures there. They are larger-than-life animal sculptures that speak volumes about a global issue — the massive plastic pollution in our oceans. VOA's June Soh takes us to the zoo's special exhibit, called Washed Ashore: Art to Save the Sea.
    Video

    Video Baghdad Bikers Defy War with a Roar

    Baghdad is a city of contradictions. War is a constant. Explosions and kidnappings are part of daily life. But the Iraqi capital remains a thriving city, even if a little beat up. VOA's Sharon Behn reports on how some in Baghdad are defying the stereotype of a nation at war by pursuing a lifestyle known for its iconic symbols of rebellion: motorbikes, leather jackets and roaring engines.
    Video

    Video Melting Pot of Immigrants Working to Restore US Capitol Dome

    The American Iron Works company is one of the firms working to renovate the iconic U.S. Capitol Dome. The company employs immigrants of many different cultural and national backgrounds. VOA’s Arman Tarjimanyan has more.
    Video

    Video Testing Bamboo as Building Material

    For thousands of years various species of bamboo - one of the world's most versatile plants - have been used for diverse purposes ranging from food and medicine to textiles and construction. But its use on a large scale is hampered because it's not manufactured to specific standards but grown in the ground. A University of Pittsburgh professor is on track to changing that. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Orphanage in Iraqi City Houses Kids Who Lost their Parents to Attacks by IS

    An orphanage in Iraqi Kurdistan has become home to scores of Yazidi children who lost their parents after Islamic State militants took over Sinjar in Iraq’s Nineveh Province in 2014. Iraqi Kurdish forces backed by the U.S. airstrikes have since recaptured Sinjar but the need for the care provided by the orphanage continues. VOA’s Kawa Omar filed this report narrated by Rob Raffaele.
    Video

    Video Re-Opening Old Wounds in a Bullet-Riddled Cultural Landmark

    A cultural landmark before Lebanon’s civil war transformed it into a nest of snipers, Beirut’s ‘Yellow House’ is once again set to play a crucial role in the city.  Built in a neo-Ottoman style in the 1920s, in September it is set to be re-opened as a ‘memory museum’ - its bullet-riddled walls and bunkered positions overlooking the city’s notorious ‘Green Line’ maintained for posterity. John Owens reports from Beirut.
    Video

    Video Brexit Resounds in US Presidential Contest

    Britain’s decision to leave the European Union is resounding in America’s presidential race. As VOA’s Michael Bowman reports, Republican presumptive nominee Donald Trump sees Britain’s move as an affirmation of his campaign’s core messages, while Democrat Hillary Clinton sees the episode as further evidence that Trump is unfit to be president.
    Video

    Video NASA Juno Spacecraft, Nearing Jupiter, to Shed Light on Gas Giant

    After a five-year journey, the spacecraft Juno is nearing its destination, the giant planet Jupiter, where it will enter orbit and start sending data back July 4th. As Mike O'Sullivan reports from Pasadena, California, the craft will pierce the veil of Jupiter's dense cloud cover to reveal its mysteries.
    Video

    Video Orlando Shooting Changes Debate on Gun Control

    It’s been nearly two weeks since the largest mass shooting ever in the United States. Despite public calls for tighter gun control laws, Congress is at an impasse. Democratic lawmakers resorted to a 1960s civil rights tactic to portray their frustration. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti explains how the Orlando, Florida shooting is changing the debate.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora