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N. Korea extends olive branch to South ahead of Obama's visit

All Headlines 13:49 November 17, 2009

By Kim Hyun

SEOUL, Nov. 17 (Yonhap) -- North Korea made an unusually straightforward peace overture on Tuesday when it vowed efforts to improve relations with South Korea and resolve tension stoked by a recent inter-Korean naval confrontation.

The statement by Rodong Sinmun, the North's major newspaper published by the Workers' Party, came a day ahead of U.S. President Barack Obama's visit to South Korea. Obama's two-day trip is expected to highlight North Korea issues as well as Seoul-Washington relations.

"In such circumstances where one party distrusts its dialogue partner and escalates confrontation and even carries out a military provocation, North-South relations cannot be normalized," the paper said, apparently referring to the Nov. 10 naval skirmish in the Yellow Sea.

"Nothing but war will break out in a situation of mutual hostility and escalating military tension," it said.

The paper cited North Korean leader Kim Jong-il's undated remarks that called improving inter-Korean relations an "urgent need" for peace and unification on the peninsula.

"It entirely depends on the attitude of the South Korean authorities whether or not inter-Korean relations continue to deteriorate," the paper said.

"We will continue to make active efforts for the improvement of North-South relations," it said.

The navies of the two Koreas exchanged gunfire in their first skirmish in the Yellow Sea in seven years. South Korea suffered no casualties, while a North Korean patrol boat retreated in flames.


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