South Korea on Monday proposed holding inter-Korean military talks later this week on reducing tensions along the border, a follow-up to President Moon Jae-in's recent peace overture made in his speech in Berlin.
"We make the proposal for a meeting ... aimed at stopping all hostile activities that escalate military tension along the land border", the defence ministry said in a statement.
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 October 4.
South Korea has offered to hold talks with North Korea to ease animosities along their tense border and resume reunions of families separated by their war in the 1950s.
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". But Moon's overture, the first formal offer of talks since his inauguration in May, indicates he wants to use dialogue to defuse the worldwide standoff over North Korea's weapons programs, despite having condemned the North's first intercontinental ballistic missile test on July 4 and vowed a firm response.
"North Korea should respond to our honest proposals if it really seeks peace on the Korean Peninsula", said Cho Myoung-gyon, Seoul's unification minister in charge of North Korea affairs.
Mr. Suh, the vice defense minister, on Monday called on the North to restore a military hotline that Pyongyang cut off in 2016, amid tensions following its nuclear test in January of that year.
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. A previous joint event was held in October 2015 to arrange the reunion of families separated by the 1950-1953 Korean War. But he has achieved little progress, with North Korea test-firing a series of newly developed missiles.
Seoul's olive branch comes as U.S. President Donald Trump signals frustration with the pace of efforts by China, North Korea's longtime ally and top trading partner, to pressure Kim back to the bargaining table. In all, the North has conducted five nuclear tests and numerous missile tests. But the North might set a precondition for the talks, such as a suspension of annual South Korean-U.S. military drills that it views as an invasion rehearsal, according to Koh Yu-hwan, a professor at Seoul's Dongguk University.
Novak said the military talks would be held first.