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

    Escalation of Media Crackdown in Turkey Heightens Concerns

    Critics see 'a new dark age' as arrests of journalists, closures of media outlets by Erdogan government mount

    Russia Boasts of Troop Buildup on Flank, Draws Flak

    Russian military moves counter to efforts to de-escalate tensions, State Department says

    What Take-out Food Reveals About American History

    From fast-food restaurants to pizza delivery, here's what the history of take-out food tells us about changes in American society

    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.
    Immigrant Delegate Marvels at Democratic Processi
    X
    Katherine Gypson
    July 27, 2016 6:21 PM
    It’s been a bitter and divisive election season – but first time Indian-American delegate Dr. Shashi Gupta headed to the Democratic National Convention with a sense of hope. VOA’s Katherine Gypson followed this immigrant with the love of U.S. politics all the way to Philadelphia.
    Video

    Video Immigrant Delegate Marvels at Democratic Process

    It’s been a bitter and divisive election season – but first time Indian-American delegate Dr. Shashi Gupta headed to the Democratic National Convention with a sense of hope. VOA’s Katherine Gypson followed this immigrant with the love of U.S. politics all the way to Philadelphia.
    Video

    Video A Life of Fighting Back: Hillary Clinton Shatters Glass Ceiling

    Hillary Clinton made history Thursday, overcoming personal and political setbacks to become the first woman to win the presidential nomination of a major U.S. political party. If she wins in November, she will go from “first lady” to U.S. Senator from New York, to Secretary of State, to “Madam President.” Polls show Clinton is both beloved and despised. White House Correspondent Cindy Saine takes a look at the life of the woman both supporters and detractors agree is a fighter for the ages.
    Video

    Video Dutch Entrepreneurs Turn Rainwater Into Beer

    June has been recorded as one of the wettest months in more than a century in many parts of Europe. To a group of entrepreneurs in Amsterdam the rain came as a blessing, as they used the extra water to brew beer. Serginho Roosblad has more to the story.
    Video

    Video First Time Delegate’s First Day Frustrations

    With thousands of people filling the streets of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania for the 2016 Democratic National Convention, VOA’s Kane Farabaugh narrowed in on one delegate as she made her first trip to a national party convention. It was a day that was anything but routine for this United States military veteran.
    Video

    Video Commerce Thrives on US-Mexico Border

    At the Democratic Convention in Philadelphia this week, the party’s presumptive presidential nominee, Hillary Clinton, is expected to attack proposals made by her opponent, Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump, to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border. Last Friday, President Barack Obama hosted his Mexican counterpart, President Enrique Peña Nieto, to underscore the good relations between the two countries. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Tucson.
    Video

    Video Film Helps Save Ethiopian Children Thought to be Cursed

    'Omo Child' looks at effort of African man to stop killings of ‘mingi’ children
    Video

    Video London’s Financial Crown at Risk as Rivals Eye Brexit Opportunities

    By most measures, London rivals New York as the only true global financial center. But Britain’s vote to leave the European Union – so-called ‘Brexit’ – means the city could lose its right to sell services tariff-free across the bloc, risking its position as Europe’s financial headquarters. Already some banks have said they may shift operations to the mainland. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
    Video

    Video Recycling Lifeline for Lebanon’s Last Glassblowers

    In a small Lebanese coastal town, one family is preserving a craft that stretches back millennia. The art of glass blowing was developed by Phoenicians in the region, and the Khalifehs say they are the only ones keeping the skill alive in Lebanon. But despite teaming up with an eco-entrepreneur and receiving an unexpected boost from the country’s recent trash crisis the future remains uncertain. John Owens reports from Sarafand.
    Video

    Video Migrants Continue to Risk Lives Crossing US Border from Mexico

    In his speech Thursday before the Republican National Convention, the party’s presidential candidate, Donald Trump, reiterated his proposal to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border if elected. Polls show a large percentage of Americans support better control of the nation's southwestern border, but as VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from the border town of Nogales in the Mexican state of Sonora, the situation faced by people trying to cross the border is already daunting.
    Video

    Video In State of Emergency, Turkey’s Erdogan Focuses on Spiritual Movement

    The state of emergency that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has declared is giving him even more power to expand a purge that has seen an estimated 60,000 people either arrested or suspended from their jobs. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports from Istanbul.
    Video

    Video Calm the Waters: US Doubles Down Diplomatic Efforts in ASEAN Meetings

    The United States is redoubling diplomatic efforts and looking to upcoming regional meetings to calm the waters after an international tribunal invalidated the legal basis of Beijing's extensive claims in the South China Sea. VOA State Department correspondent Nike Ching has the story.
    Video

    Video Scientists in Poland Race to Save Honeybees

    Honeybees are in danger worldwide. Causes of what's known as colony collapse disorder range from pesticides and loss of habitat to infections. But scientists in Poland say they are on track to finding a cure for one of the diseases. VOA’s George Putic reports.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora