SEOUL, South Korea – North Korea on Friday proposed a military meeting with South Korea, but also called its defense minister a traitor and a "reckless war maniac."
Communist North Korea said it wants to discuss the "issue of military communication lines," a South Korean Defense Ministry official said.
The official said it was unclear what the North was referring to.
The level of the proposed contact is much lower than the usual working-level talks involving colonel-grade officers, the official said. He spoke on condition of anonymity, citing office policy.
South Korean government agencies are discussing the proposal to decide whether to accept it, the official said.
It was not clear whether the proposal specified a date or location for the meeting.
Early this month, the two sides held colonel-level talks that ended without progress.
During that meeting, North Korea lodged a strong complaint with the South about private activists who have sent anti-North Korean propaganda leaflets carried by balloons into the country. North Korea warned it might expel South Koreans working for a tourism program and an industrial park in the North's border city of Kaesong.
Relations between the two Koreas have worsened rapidly since South Korean President Lee Myung-bak took office in February with a pledge to get tough with North Korea — a stance that contrasted with his two liberal predecessors who aggressively sought reconciliation by providing massive aid to the impoverished North.
North Korea strongly protested Lee's policy and suspended reconciliation talks.
Civilian exchanges, however, have continued. But North Korea warned last week that it would cut any remaining relations if South Korea continues a policy of "reckless confrontation."
The warning raised concern that North Korea may abandon the Kaesong tour and industrial park programs.
On Friday, the North's Committee for the Peaceful Reunification of the Fatherland — a ruling Workers' Party group dealing with South Korean affairs — slammed Seoul's defense minister, accusing him of plotting with the United States to invade the North.
The committee called Defense Minister Lee Sang-hee a "pro-U.S. traitor" and a "reckless war maniac" for having discussed with his U.S. counterpart measures to bolster joint defense capabilities and bring in more American troops in case of an emergency.
About 28,500 U.S. troops are stationed in South Korea to help defend it against threats from the North.
The 1950-53 Korean War ended with a truce, not a peace treaty, leaving the peninsula technically still at war. Relations between the two rivals warmed significantly after they held the first summit of their leaders in 2000 before cooling again this year.