News / Asia

South Korea Reluctant to Resume Talks With North

Both Koreas are continuing to talk about talking. But there has been no agreement on discussions that North Korea has asked to start before the end of this month. South Korea still says the time is not right.

South Korea’s Unification Ministry quickly rejected Pyongyang’s latest offer for talks.

Minister Hyun In-taek said Tuesday the first step toward sincere talks has to be North Korea taking responsibility for its provocative acts and demonstrating its willingness to end its nuclear weapons programs.

Hyun says North Korea needs to break down the walls and cross the door that South Korea has opened for dialogue.

Pyongyang wants to hold government talks on January 27 at the border town of Kaesong. It also asked for Red Cross talks a few days later.

Pyongyang on Tuesday expressed disappointment with South Korea’s position.

An editorial in a government newspaper denounced Seoul for "dampening hopes for improved relations".  The commentary said Pyongyang’s sincerity about talks could be gauged once the two Koreas "sit down face to face"”

Park Young-ho, a senior research fellow at the Korea Institute for National Unification, a South Korean government-funded research institution, says Pyongyang is only putting on an act, to avoid further condemnation from the international community and because the impoverished regime is desperate for outside aid.

He says if North Korea apologizes for sinking the Cheonan warship and shelling Yeonpyeong island last year, then South Korea would become receptive to resuming direct meetings.

Park says if Pyongyang takes such responsibility for its acts then talks could be held tomorrow.

Less than two months ago, North Korea shelled Yeonpyeong in the Yellow Sea, killing four South Koreans.

Last March, a South Korean navy ship exploded and sank in the same waters, killing 46 sailors. An international investigation concluded the vessel was hit by a North Korean torpedo. Pyongyang denies involvement.

In recent months North Korea has also raised tensions by disclosing it is operating a uranium enrichment plant, giving it a second method of creating nuclear bombs.



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