North Korea has reportedly snubbed the talks offer initiated by South Korea saying the invitation lacks "sincerity". Foreign ministers of the rival Koreas are thought to have held a brief meeting when they bumped into each other at a regional security summit in Manila on Sunday, 6 August.
Seoul had earlier invited Pyongyang for dialogue to ease the Korean peninsula tensions. Though the reclusive North Korean regime did not formally respond to the invitation in the past, its state media outlets have made it clear there will be no inter-Korean talks in the near future until South Korea and the US scale down their military activities in the region.
In the latest development, North Korea's Ri Yong-ho and South Korean Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-wha met on the sidelines of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) security conference. It is one of the rare regional platforms where the North sends its top representative.
"The meeting was not previously arranged but a natural encounter at the party. Minister Kang shook hands with Ri before starting to talk," a South Korean source told journalists in Manila, reported the Yonhap news agency. The three-minute encounter between the two Korean diplomats took place just during an official dinner.
It is still unclear whether the two ministers will hold a separate meeting on Monday, 7 August as they both will attend the annual Asean Regional Forum (ARF) – which is likely to be dominated by the discussions on Pyongyang's nuclear and missile programmes. Though the South Korean foreign minister said she was open to holding a dialogue in any format, the North Korean delegates have not yet responded.
After arriving in Manila on Sunday, 6 August, Ri was also asked to respond to the latest UN-imposed economic sanctions but he declined to answer any questions.
Communication channels between the divided Koreas – which are still technically at war since the 1950-53 conflict did not end in a peace treaty but only an armistice agreement – have been completely sealed off recently, because of North Korea's repeated missile launches.
Besides South Korea, the international community has also been attempting to bring North Korea to the table for talks but with no success. Even on Monday, 7 August, US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson signalled that Washington would be able to hold talks with North Korea provided the hermit kingdom abandons the missiles launches.
"We've not had an extended period of time where they have not taken some type of provocative action by launching ballistic missiles. So I think that would be the first and strongest signal they could send to us is just stop these missile launches," said the top US authority, who is also in Manila to participate in the Asean summit.
Speaking about the economic sanctions announced by the UN Security Council, Tillerson said: "We hope again that this ultimately will result in North Korea coming to the conclusion to choose a different pathway, and when the conditions are right then we can sit and have a dialogue around the future of North Korea so that they feel secure and prosper economically."