South Korea accepts North’s proposal for military talks

Thursday, January 20, 2011

SEOUL - South Korea said Thursday that it would accept a proposal from North Korea to hold high-level military talks, but set conditions.

Seoul’s acceptance came after a suggestion for the meeting from the North earlier Thursday.

The overture followed the rising of tensions on the Korean Peninsula with the sinking of a South Korean warship in March, which killed 46 sailors. In November, North Korea shelled a South Korean island, killing four people.

Seoul said a precondition for the talks would be that North Korea admits responsibility for the attack on the island and the torpedoing the warship.

The South Koreans said they would also propose separate talks between government officials on the dismantling of the North’s nuclear programme.

“The North Korean proposals are somewhat vague,” said a spokeswoman for the Unification Ministry, which handles relations between the two Koreas.

She said South Korea wanted the holding of preparatory working-level military talks in order to glean more information on the North Korean position.

She said the North had to refrain from a repeat of provocative acts - a reference to the island selling and sinking of the warship Cheonan.

It was not immediately clear when the talks would begin.

Pyongyang’s proposal Thursday came from Kim Young Chun, the minister of the People’s Armed Forces, and was sent to South Korean Defence Minister Kim Kwan Jin.

In the telegram, North Korea suggested holding military talks to discuss “pending” military issues.

The North has made several offers of talks since the beginning of the year, all of which have been dismissed by the South, saying the proposals were not serious.

Thursday’s offer came a day after talks in Washington between US President Barack Obama, and President Hu Jintao of China, the North’s main backer.

In a join press conference after their meeting the two leaders called for a “serious and constructive dialogue” between the two Koreas, saying this was an essential step to improve relations.

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