South Korea offered border talks with North

Seoul: South Korea on Tuesday proposed talks with North Korea in the thick of a standoff over its weapons programmes, a day after North Korean leader Kim Jong-un said he was open to negotiations but that his country would push ahead with “mass producing” nuclear warheads. South korea offered for a high-level talks next Tuesday that had already beendiscussed with the US, the South’s unification minister said, while a decision on whether to push back a massive joint military drill between South Korea and the US until after the Winter Olympics was pending.

Tension has been rising over North Korea’s nuclear and missile programmes, which it pursues in defiance of years of UN security council resolutions, with bellicose rhetoric coming from both Pyongyang and the White House. The North sees the regular war drills between the South and the US as preparations for war. “We look forward to candidly discussing interests from both sides face-to-face with North Korea along with the North’s participation in the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics,” unification Minister Cho Myong-gyon said.

“I repeat: The government is open to talking with North Korea, regardless of time, location and form.” Cho said he expects the dialogue at the border village of Panmunjom, if it happens, to be focused on North Korea’s participation at the Olympics in February, but other issues would likely arise, including the denuclearisation of North Korea. Should the talks be held, it would be the first such dialogue since a meeting in December 2015. REUTERS

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