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South Korean President Moon Jae-In calls for rare talks with North

South Korea's defense ministry called Monday for formal talks with its northern neighbor to be held on July 21 at Tongilgak, a North Korean building in the border town of Panmunjom where prior inter-Korea talks have been held.

"We make the proposal for a meeting... aimed at stopping all hostile activities that escalate military tension along the land border" that is also the Military Demarcation Line between the long-hostile neighbors , the ministry announced in a statement.

The ministry did not explicitly specify what "all hostile activities" includes, and the definition varies between the two Koreas. Typically, Pyongyang would like to end the routine joint military drills undertaken by South Korea and the United States along the border, while Seoul would like the loudspeaker propaganda broadcast by both sides to cease.

South Korean President Moon Jae-In calls for rare talks with North

North Korea has launched various missile tests over the past few months

At a news briefing, South Korea's Unification Minister Cho Myoung-gyon added that talks could be a way to de-escalate the North Korean nuclear threat that has intensified in the wake of multiple missile tests over the past months. Most recently, Pyongyang claimed to have tested an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) capable of carrying a nuclear warhead.

Read more:  Trump 'furious' over 'appeasement' of South Korea towards North Korea

"Talks and cooperation between the two Koreas to ease tension and bring about peace on the Korean peninsula will be instrumental for pushing forth a mutual, virtuous cycle for inter-Korea relations and North Korea's nuclear problem," Cho said.

When asked whether the South would "be flexible" on its joint military drills with the US, Cho responded that the issue was not one which Seoul had discussed directly yet.

Military and government hotlines should also be restored across the border, Cho added. The North cut communication across the MDL after the South had imposed economic sanctions in response to a northern nuclear test in 2016.

South Korean President Moon Jae-In calls for rare talks with North

A shifting stance?

The call for dialogue from the newly in-office President Moon marks a change in approach for the South Korean government's stance towards its northern neighbor . Under the preceding government of Park Geun-Hye, Seoul had refused to engage in talks with Pyongyang without the prior cessation of nuclear activities.

Elected in May 2017 with promises of engagement, Moon reiterated his preference at the G20 summit in Hamburg in early July for dialogue with the north despite its "nuclear provocation".

South Korean President Moon Jae-In calls for rare talks with North

President Moon would like to open formal dialouge with the north

The last inter-Korean governmental talks were held in 2015 .

The North Korean government did not immediately respond to Moon's overtures. Ruler Kim Jong-Un has said he will not give up nuclear ambitions until the US ceases its hostility towards Pyongyang.

Reuniting families

Family reunification and humanitarian improvement are other goals alongside the de-escalating the nuclear and military conflict between the two Koreas.

On Monday, the South Korean Red Cross also called for separate talks with its northern counterpart to be held on August 1, also in Panmunjom. The humanitarian organization would like to


Is Trump using North Korea threat as trade leverage with South?

Despite concerns about its auto, steel and home electronics sectors, the South Korean government appears to be willing to accede to the demands of the United States to renegotiate a bilateral free trade agreement that went into effect in March 2012.

Washington formally requested on July 12 that the two sides meet for discussions on  revising the trade agreement - a pact that US President Donald Trump has described as a "job-killer" for US companies. And while Seoul has suggested that it is not immediately in a position to open talks because the administration of President Moon Jae-in has not yet appointed a new trade minister, it has not refused point-blank to negotiate a deal that the US will demand should be more weighted in its favor.

Seoul's rapid capitulation, analysts believe, is the result of the implicit suggestion from Washington that it could walk away from the security treaty that ensures South Korea's protection from North Korea if its demands are not met.

In its formal letter to the government in Seoul, US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer proposed that a special Joint Committee Meeting take place in Washington within the next 30 days to consider revisions to the trade deal. The reason cited for the revisions was that the US has experienced a persistent trade deficit in goods trade with South Korea.

Read: South Korean President Moon Jae-In calls for rare talks with North

'Free, fair, balanced trade'

"Korea is an important ally and key trading partner, and in order to strengthen our relationship, we need free, fair and balanced trade," Lighthizer's letter stated. "A key focus of the Trump Administration is on reducing our trade deficits with trading partners around the world, and we have real concerns about our significant trade imbalance with Korea."

According to US statistics from the office of the US Trade Representative, the US trade deficit in goods with Korea has soared from $13.2 billion (11.5 billion euros) before the deal was signed to $27.6 billion (24 billion euros) today. The office adds that US exports to Korea have shrunk over the last five years.

As well as the need to appoint a new trade minister, the South Korean administration has first called for an examination of the statistics to identify the cause of any imbalance in trade, but Seoul has signaled that it is willing to talk.

"It is hugely ironic that when this Free Trade Agreement (FTA) was first being debated in South Korea, President Lee Myung-back came in for terrible criticism and there were huge demonstrations against the deal," said Rah Jong-yil, a former South Korean ambassador and a senior government adviser.

"One of the strongest opponents of the deal was Moon, who is now the president and in the position of having to defend it," he pointed out. "But, to me, it is clear that this government is willing to renegotiate the agreement to the advantage of the US."

And while neither side has stated that the security relationship is a


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