Thursday, 6 January 2011

South Korea rejects North Korea's 'unconditional' talks offer

US envoy to North Korea Stephen Bosworth is in China for talks

A North Korean offer on 5th January for "unconditional and early" talks in an effort to ease tensions has been quickly dismissed by South Korea.

The North Korean statement, carried by its KCNA news agency said it “courteously proposes having wide-ranging dialogue and negotiations”.

An official at the Unification Ministry in Seoul said, however, that it was not a serious proposal for dialogue, adding the offer was part of a propaganda campaign.

Reuters new agency quoted a ministry official as saying, “North Korea previously issued statements like this early in the year... they are normally done as part of [a] propaganda campaign toward the South."

"We do not consider this is as a serious proposal for dialogue. It is not even in the correct and appropriate format."

South Korean foreign ministry spokeswoman Lee Jong-joo said they wanted Pyongyang to first apologise for the North Korean artillery attack that killed four South Koreans in late November and for the sinking of a South Korean warship in March, which Pyongyang denies.

China, North Korea's major ally, has welcomed Pyongyang's statement.

"We support and welcome relevant parties to have contact and dialogue, and make active interactions to jointly steer the situation to a desirable direction," foreign ministry spokesman Hong Lei told reporters.

"China always believes that dialogue and consultation are the only effective approach to solving peninsula-related issues. China will continue to play a constructive role to this end."

South Korea's major ally, the US, has been less welcoming. Stephen Bosworth, the top US official on North Korea, is currently in China, trying to establish a fresh round of diplomacy on the issue. The US has said however that the North must indicate that it is serious about ending its provocations before talks could resume.

Tensions have been high in the Korean peninsula since November when South Korean military exercises in disputed waters provoked a North Korean artillery attack on Yeonpyeong Island.

Sources: Telegraph, Guardian, BBC News

For more information on the North Korea - South Korea dispute, please see the menas borders website, here.

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