SKorea’s Lee calls for talks with NKorea, renews offer of incentives for disarmament

By Hyung-jin Kim, AP
Sunday, February 28, 2010

SKorea renews offer of incentives for disarmament

SEOUL, South Korea — South Korea’s president said Monday that he wants to achieve “genuine” reconciliation with North Korea through dialogue and renewed his offer of a package of incentives for the North’s nuclear disarmament.

The North has recently reached out to Seoul and Washington following months of tension over its nuclear and missile program. A U.S. State Department spokesman said Friday that the North could rejoin international nuclear disarmament talks in coming weeks.

“For genuine reconciliation and cooperation … South and North Korea must resolve many pending issues through a dialogue,” President Lee Myung-bak said in a nationally televised address marking Korea’s 1919 uprising against Japanese colonial rule.

North Korea “must discuss with sincerity the ‘grand bargain’ deal that we have offered,” Lee said.

Lee’s “grand bargain” would provide the North with a set of political incentives and economic aid in exchange for the irreversible dismantling of its nuclear weapons program in a single step, rather than the step-by-step process pursued in the past. The single-step process is aimed at preventing North Korea from backtracking on its commitments after receiving the aid.

“North Korea must show its sincerity to the international community with an action,” Lee said.

Later Monday, about 50 conservative activists staged an anti-Pyongyang rally in Seoul, chanting slogans like “Blow up North Korea’s nuclear facilities!” and burning the North’s national flags. There were no immediate reports of clashes or injuries.

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton told reporters Friday that the United States was encouraged by signs that North Korea might return to international talks aimed at ending the North’s nuclear program in return for aid. The countries participating in the talks are North Korea, the U.S., Russia, China, Japan and South Korea.

Her spokesman, P.J. Crowley, later said the talks could begin “in coming weeks or months.”

North Korea quit the talks and conducted a second atomic test last year, inviting tighter U.N. sanctions. The regime has called for a lifting of the sanctions and peace talks formally ending the 1950-53 Korean War before it returns to the disarmament talks. The U.S., South Korea and Japan have responded the North must first return to the negotiations and produce progress.

Associated Press photographer Young-joon Ahn in Seoul contributed to this report.

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