World

South Korea dismisses North 'offer' for dialogue

PTI Seoul | Updated on March 12, 2018 Published on May 27, 2013

South Korea today brushed off an apparent offer by North Korea to resume nuclear disarmament talks, and chided Pyongyang for a recent personal attack on its president Park Geun-Hye.

“Actions are more important than words,” Unification Ministry spokesman Kim Hyung-Seok said of the offer contained in a letter delivered on Friday by an envoy of North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un to Chinese President Xi Jinping.

Chinese state media said the letter cited the North’s willingness to resume stalled six-party talks on denuclearisation involving China, the two Koreas, the US, Russia and Japan.

The reported message was greeted with scepticism in South Korea, where observers saw it as an effort to appease Beijing, rather than a genuine signal of intent.

North Korea has repeatedly declared that its programme to develop a viable nuclear deterrent is not open to negotiation.

Seoul and Washington, meanwhile, insist that the North must demonstrate its commitment to abandoning its nuclear weapons programme in order for formal talks to begin.

The North Korean state media’s coverage of envoy Choe Ryong-Hae’s visit to China made no mention whatsoever of a dialogue proposal.

Of the letter handed to President Xi, Pyongyang’s official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) said only that it conveyed Kim’s desire to deepen the “traditional friendship” between North Korea and China.

China is North Korea’s key economic benefactor and diplomatic protector, but it signed off on UN sanctions punishing Pyongyang for its nuclear test in February.

In Seoul, the Unification Ministry said the North needed to set its priorities straight, and it criticised Pyongyang for a “two-faced” invite sent to a left-wing civic group in the South.

“If the North genuinely wants dialogue, the first step should be responding to our repeated call for working-level governmental talks on the Kaesong industrial complex,” the spokesman said.

Kaesong was the most high-profile victim of two months of elevated military tensions that followed the North’s nuclear test.

Established just north of the border in 2004 as a rare symbol of cooperation, the showpiece project had more than 120 South Korean firms employing some 53,000 North Korean workers.

The North barred South Korean access to the zone and pulled out its workers in early April. Seoul withdrew the last of its nationals early this month.

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Published on May 27, 2013
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