South Korea has rejected North Korea's latest appeal for an inter-Korean dialogue, calling it a standard ploy to get more economic aid.
North Korea sent a notice to the South Korean unification ministry Monday, formally proposing a working-level dialogue on January 27 in the North Korean town of Kaesong, near the border with the South. Pyongyang said the talks would be aimed at preparing for higher-level discussions between the two Koreas.
The South Korean government rejected the offer and instead proposed a government-to-government dialogue to determine whether the North is "sincere" about easing tensions on the peninsula.
Seoul insists that the communist regime must acknowledge wrongdoing in last year's attacks which killed 50 South Koreans. It also wants Pyongyang to abide by its 2005 commitments to dismantle its nuclear weapons program in return for foreign aid.
The U.S. government said Monday it is understandable that the South is mistrustful following North Korea's November attack on a South Korean island and sinking of a South Korean warship in March. Spokesman P.J. Crowley told reporters in Washington that Pyongyang went through a provocative stage last year and is now in the charm stage. But he said North Korea must demonstrate in its day-to-day activity that it is prepared for sustained and constructive dialogue.
In its official notice to the South Monday, Pyongyang promised to reopen a Red Cross border liaison office at the border village of Panmunjon from Wednesday. The North also proposed talks between the Red Cross agencies of the two Koreas on February 1 in the South Korean city of Munsan, just across the border from Kaesong.
Monday's invitation was preceded last week by comments published in the state-run news media, saying that North Korea is ready for "unconditional and early" talks with the South.