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S. Korea Urges North to Restart Reunification Talks


South Korea is pushing North Korea to restart a stalled dialogue on reunification, but it also is demanding an official apology for a deadly naval battle in June. Officials from both nations are meeting to revive Cabinet-level talks, which have been suspended since November.

Lingering anger and mistrust over the naval clash in the Yellow Sea appear to be setting the tone at the inter-Korean talks.

The meeting, which ends Sunday, is taking place at the remote Diamond Mountain resort on North Korea's eastern coast. Its goal is to set a date and agenda to restart a suspended ministerial dialogue.

Despite a June 2000 summit between North and South Korea, little progress has been made in their quest for better ties. That is partly due to increased tensions between Pyongyang and Washington, Seoul's key ally.

North Korea offered to reopen the dialogue last week and also expressed regret for the June 29 naval clash, which killed sailors on both sides.

But it stopped short of an official apology, which is what the South now seeks.

The head of Seoul's delegation told reporters that his government demands that those responsible be punished.

The response from the North's delegation has not been publicized. But its official media repeats Pyongyang's view that South Korea and the United States are at fault for the clash, because they adhere to a border drawn by the United Nations after the Korean War ended in 1953 without a peace treaty. The North declared the border invalid three years ago.

Despite the tensions, political analysts say they expect progress from the meeting, because Pyongyang has indicated it wants better ties with the United States and Japan, as well.

The impoverished country also badly needs food aid and loans, as it implements new economic policies.

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