The rival Koreas were holding rare high-level military talks Thursday to discuss reducing tensions across their heavily fortified border, TIME reported. North Korean officials could now seek a firm commitment from Seoul on stopping its military drills with the United States.
President Donald Trump said after his historic summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un in Singapore on Tuesday that the allies should stop the war games during nuclear negotiations in “good faith.” South Korea’s presidential office has said it’s trying to discern Trump’s meaning and intent, but also that the allies should explore various ways to “further facilitate” dialogue with the North.
Seoul’s Defense Ministry said the military talks will focus on carrying out agreements from a summit between Kim and South Korean President Moon Jae-in where they vowed to take materialized steps to reduce military tensions and eliminate the danger of war.
“We will invest our best efforts to bring in a new era of peace on the Korean Peninsula,” South Korean Maj. Gen. Kim Do-gyun told reporters before the talks began.
At a building on the northern side of Panmunjom, the South Korean officials were greeted by a North Korean delegation led by Lt. Gen. An Ik San, who joked that he was “very jealous” of the major general who probably was the first Korean soldier to cross the military demarcation line that bisects the Koreas by foot and while wearing a uniform. It wasn’t immediately clear whether San was right.
“I am sure that delegation chief Kim has firmly registered himself to the Guinness Book (of World Records) on the history of our nation’s unification,” the lieutenant general said. Kim replied he was honored to meet San and expressed hope for a meaningful breakthrough in the talks.
The Korean military officials may discuss holding military talks on a regular basis and establishing a hotline between their top military officials, and they may also discuss efforts to recover the remains of soldiers missing and presumed dead from the 1950-53 Korean War.
Moon met Kim in April and again in May as Pyongyang made a diplomatic push following a provocative run of nuclear and missile tests in 2017. Pyongyang and Seoul have agreed to various sets of peace talks, including planned discussions to set up reunions between war-separated families and to field combined teams at the Asian Games in Jakarta, Indonesia, in August, TIME notes.