North Korea seeks talks with South in a month

Saturday, January 8, 2011

SEOUL - North Korea Saturday renewed its call for unconditional talks with South Korea and proposed they be held within a month.

“We formally propose an unconditional and early opening of the talks between the authorities of the North and the South,” the North’s Committee for the Peaceful Reunification of the Fatherland said in a statement that was carried on the official Korean Central News Agency.

The same statement said North Korea wanted to reopen offices for inter-Korean economic cooperation at a jointly North-South-run industrial park in the North Korean border city of Kaesong. They were closed last year during a low point in relations.

It also sought talks between the Red Cross associations of the two countries to discuss the resumption of South Korean tours to the North, which were halted in 2008 after a female tourist was fatally shot after entering a restricted area in the North.

Both the tours and industrial park provide much needed sources of income for the impoverished North.

The statement said there was no “need to cast any doubt about its real intention” in proposing the negotiations.

Pyongyang made its first proposal of the talks Wednesday amid rising tensions on the Korean Peninsula after the sinking in March of a South Korean warship, which killed 46 sailors and which Seoul blamed on its neighbour, and North Korea’s shelling in November of a South Korean island, in which four died.

South Korea rejected Wednesday’s proposal, calling it “not serious” and casting doubts on the North’s true intentions.

It said the North had used similar statements in the past for propaganda and called on Pyongyang to prove it was committed to such talks, such as fulfilling previous commitments to dismantle its nuclear weapons programme.

“We are checking whether North Korea has sent official messages to our government or the military,” an unnamed official at the Unification Ministry in Seoul was quoted as saying Saturday by the Yonhap News Agency. “Without these, the proposal is not an official dialogue offer, just a unilateral announcement.”

The proposals of talks were made after Pyongyang said in a New Year’s message that it wants to reduce tensions with the South. The same message, however, also warned of a “nuclear holocaust” if there is another war on the Korean Peninsula.

Filed under: Diplomacy

will not be displayed