(SEOUL, South Korea) — In a surprise change of tone, South Korean President Park Geun-hye offered to open talks with North Korea in an effort to calm down the heated tensions on the Korean Peninsula.
“We must activate the trust process of Korean Peninsula,” the president said at a dinner meeting with lawmakers of the National Assembly’s committee in charge of foreign policy and unification affairs. “We will engage in talks.”
In the past she has maintained that no talks could take place unless the North gave up its nuclear program, which is also the U.S. line.
The president said South Korea and the U.S. have held the “same policies with one voice” in line with the spirit of “strongest allies” especially when it comes to dealing with the North.
But sources close to the presidential office in Seoul are concerned that Thursday’s “olive branch” was made without consulting with the U.S.
Secretary of State John Kerry is headed to Seoul on Friday for talks with South Korean officials on the tensions.
Kerry has just wrapped up a foreign ministers’ G-8 meeting in London at which they condemned North Korea’s aggressive rhetoric and the development of its nuclear missile programs, saying that Pyongyang’s recent actions threaten international security.
Also on Thursday, South Korean Minister of Unification held a press conference encouraging North Korea to come out and talk about what they want.
The South’s Unification Minister Ryoo Kihl-jae urged Pyongyang to cool down, engage in dialogue and reverse its decision to suspend operations of a joint industrial park just north of their shared border.
Surveillance has shown that Pyongyang is ready to launch its untested mid-range Musudan missile anytime soon, putting armed forces in Seoul and Tokyo together with American troops in Northeast Asia on high alert.
South Korea’s Defense Ministry confirmed Seoul has deployed three naval destroyers, an early warning surveillance aircraft and a land-based radar system.
The U.S. now has sea-based radars to track just-launched missiles. The SBX radar that looks like a large golf-ball mounted on a floating oil rig “has been deployed to the Pacific for an operational missile defense mission. It’s up and running and active,” a U.S. official told ABC News.
Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio
Juliet Perry, Tim Hume and Livia Borghese, CNN
Joshua Berlinger, Marilia Brocchetto and Fernando Ramos, CNN
Lorenzo D'Agostino and Hilary Clarke, CNN
KJ Kwon and Ben Westcott, CNN