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

Mali's Female Basketball Players Rebound After Islamist Occupation

Islamist extremists ruled northern Mali for most of 2012, imposing strict Sharia law, and now some 18 months later, the region is slowly getting back on its feet More

Video Vietnamese Staging Chinese Product Boycott After Oil Rig Spat

Many Chinese-made products go unsold, for now, with numerous Vietnamese consumers still angry over recent dispute More

Koreas Mark 61st Anniversary of War Armistice

Muted observances on both sides of heavily-armed Demilitarized Zone that separates two decades-long enemies More

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.
Students in Business for Themselvesi
X
Mike O'Sullivan
July 26, 2014 11:04 AM
They're only high school students, but they are making accessories for shoes, fabricating backpacks and doing product photography - all through their own businesses. It's the result of a partnership between a non-profit organization that teaches entrepreneurship and their schools. VOA's Mike O'Sullivan and Deyane Moses met the budding entrepreneurs near Los Angeles.
Video

Video Students in Business for Themselves

They're only high school students, but they are making accessories for shoes, fabricating backpacks and doing product photography - all through their own businesses. It's the result of a partnership between a non-profit organization that teaches entrepreneurship and their schools. VOA's Mike O'Sullivan and Deyane Moses met the budding entrepreneurs near Los Angeles.
Video

Video Astronauts Train in Underwater Lab

In the world’s only underwater laboratory, four U.S. astronauts train for a planned visit to an asteroid. The lab - called Aquarius- is located five kilometers off Key Largo, in southern Florida. Living in close quarters and making excursions only into the surrounding ocean, they try to simulate the daily routine of a crew that will someday travel to collect samples of a rock orbiting far away from earth. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Not Even Monks Spared From Thailand’s Junta-Backed Morality Push

With Thailand’s military government firmly in control after May’s bloodless coup, authorities are carrying out plans they say are aimed at restoring discipline, morality and patriotism to all Thais. The measures include a crackdown on illegal gambling, education reforms to promote students’ moral development, and a new 24-hour phone hotline for citizens to report misbehaving monks. Steve Sandford reports from Bangkok.
Video

Video Virtual Program Teaches Farming Skills

In a fast-changing world beset by unpredictable climate conditions, farmers cannot afford to ignore new technology. Researchers in Australia are developing an online virtual world program to share information about climate change and more sustainable farming techniques for sugar cane growers. As VOA's Zlatica Hoke reports, the idea is to create a wider support network for farmers.
Video

Video Airline Expert: Missile will Show Signature on Debris

The debris field from Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 is spread over a 21-kilometer radius in eastern Ukraine. It is expected to take investigators months to sort through the airplane pieces to learn about the missile that brought down the jetliner and who fired it. VOAs Carolyn Presutti explains how this work will be done.
Video

Video Treatment for Childhood Epilepsy Heats up Medical Marijuana Debate

In the United States, marijuana is classed as an illegal drug by the federal government. But nearly half the states have legalized it, to some degree. Proponents say some strains of marijuana might have exceptional health benefits, for treating pain or inflammation in chronic conditions such as cancer, multiple sclerosis and epilepsy. Shelley Schlender reports on a strain of medical marijuana developed in Colorado that is reputed to reduce seizures in childhood epilepsy
Video

Video Airbus Adds Metal 3D Printed Parts to New Jets

By the end of this year, European aircraft manufacturing consortium Airbus plans to deliver the first of its new, extra-wide-body passenger jets, the A350-XWB. Among other technological innovations, the new plane will also incorporate metal parts made in a 3-D printer. VOA's George Putic has more.
Video

Video AIDS Conference Welcomes Exciting Developments in HIV Treatment, Prevention

Significant strides have been made in recent years toward the treatment and prevention of HIV, the virus that causes AIDS. This year, at the International AIDS Conference, the AIDS community welcomed progress on a new pill that may prevent transmission of the deadly virus. VOA’s Anita Powell reports from Melbourne, Australia.
Video

Video IAEA: Iran Turns its Enriched Uranium Into Less Harmful Form

Iran has converted its stockpiles of enriched uranium into a less dangerous form that is more difficult to use for nuclear weapons, according to the United Nations’ Atomic Energy Agency. The move complies with an interim deal reached with Western powers on Iran's nuclear program last year, in exchange for easing of sanctions. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.

AppleAndroid