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South Korea offers talks on tension, family reunions with North

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South Korean soldiers stand guard at the border village of Panmunjom between South and North Korea

South Korea has proposed a fresh round of military talks with Pyongyang, the Defence Ministry in Seoul said Monday, in a bid to de-escalate tensions on the border.

It was unclear how North Korea will react since it remains suspicious of new South Korean President Moon Jae-in's outreach to it.

"We make the proposal for a meeting. aimed at stopping all hostile activities that escalate military tension along the land border", the country's defense ministry said in a statement, according to the Agence France-Presse news service. "If the two Koreas halt all forms of hostile acts that heighten inter-Korean military tensions across the military demarcation line, it will be a meaningful opportunity to ease military tensions".

Two days after, US Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley said that the United States was prepared to use the full range of capabilities, including military options, to defend the country and its allies against North Korea. After the North fired an ICBM on July 4, Moon quickly condemned the launch as a "reckless" and "irresponsible" provocation.

Separately, the Red Cross raised the possibility of a meeting with its North Korean counterpart on August 1 to discuss possible family reunions to coincide with shared holidays on October 4.

The Korean Red Cross plans to dispatch three representatives to the DPRK, with secretary general Kim Gunn-joong leading the delegation.

A peace treaty, which would allow the North Korean regime to ease its militaristic outlook, would be crucial to persuading Pyongyang to give up its nuclear ambitions.

Pyongyang has also demanded the return of Kim Ryen-hi, a North Korean defector in the South who has said she made a mistake and wants to go back.

Those reunions, which have been held occasionally over the years, are a highly emotional issue and are widely seen as a barometer of inter-Korean relations.

The call to conversation from the newly in-office President Moon marks a change in approach for the South Korean government's stance towards its northern neighbor.

"The reunion of separated families should take precedence over any political considerations", Cho told assembled media.

South Korea and the North are divided by a heavily-fortified border.

Pyongyang has repeatedly said it refuses to engage in all talks with the South unless Seoul turns over 12 waitresses who defected to the South a year ago after leaving a restaurant run by the North in China.

But the unification minister said the conditions for inter-Korean talks between the South and North Korean governments led by the South Korean Ministry of Unification (MOU) "haven't been satisfied".

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