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N. Korea spurns S. Korean demand to resolve nuclear issue together

All Headlines 11:02 March 04, 2010

SEOUL, March 4 (Yonhap) -- North Korea on Thursday dismissed intensifying pressure from South Korea to allow the communist country's nuclear arms programs to become a main topic in discussions between the two sides.

South Korea maintains it will not consider providing full-scale assistance to its impoverished neighbor unless the North agrees to discuss its nuclear arms development in bilateral talks.

The Rodong Sinmun, the official newspaper of the North's ruling Workers' Party, said the South Korean stance merely amounts to "a ploy to whip up a wanton campaign against the North."

"As we have made clear repeatedly, the nuclear issue has nothing to do with inter-Korean relations," the paper said in an editorial, released through the official Korean Central News Agency.

South Korean President Lee Myung-bak and other senior officials have said Seoul is willing to hold a summit with Pyongyang but only if the meeting with North Korean leader Kim Jong-il can lead to progress in the North's nuclear dismantlement.

The North argued in the paper that it began to develop nuclear arms to deter foreign hostility -- an apparent reference to the United States -- and that the South, therefore, should step away from the issue.

Relations between the Koreas, which fought the 1950-53 Korean War that ended in a truce, deteriorated quickly after Lee, a conservative, took office in early 2008 with a vow to give the nuclear issue more prominence than his two liberal predecessors.

The paper said the series of inter-Korean discussions this year on cross-border ventures remain "deadlocked" and ridiculed South Korean Unification Minister Hyun In-taek for what it said was his wrong perception of the countries' current relations.

Hyun said in recent speeches that he believes frozen inter-Korean relations have begun to thaw and that Pyongyang is acceding to Seoul's two-year-old policy of linking aid to the nuclear issue.

"Hyun is talking rubbish" when he says inter-Korean relations are improving, the paper said, accusing the official of trying to drive relations toward ruin.

Talks between the Koreas on their joint industrial park north of the heavily armed inter-Korean border ended without agreement on Tuesday, while Pyongyang refuses to identify the four South Koreans it claims to be holding for illegal entry.

Tension runs high on the divided peninsula after North Korea warned last week it could turn to what it called its nuclear deterrent if South Korea and the U.S. go ahead with their joint annual military drill, set to run from Mar 8-18.

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