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S. Korea says it will press N. Korea to change behavior through dialogue

All Headlines 12:00 December 29, 2010

SEOUL, Dec. 29 (Yonhap) -- South Korea said Wednesday it will press North Korea next year to change its provocative behavior while being careful not to fall for another charm offensive by the communist neighbor.

In a report to the president ahead of the new year, the Unification Ministry said Seoul will seek dialogue with Pyongyang to resolve "crucial issues" -- a reference to nuclear arms and other inter-Korean political and humanitarian issues -- while maintaining measures aimed at punishing the North for its provocation.

The report came as President Lee Myung-bak said that stalled six-party talks are the only viable channel for denuclearizing Pyongyang, signaling his willingness to work toward the resumption of dialogue that also includes the U.S., China, Japan and Russia.

South Korea descended into fury earlier this year when North Korea attacked its border island of Yeonpyeong and killed two marines and two civilian construction workers in the first such direct assault since the 1950-53 Korean War ended in a truce.

South Korea also holds North Korea responsible for the sinking of its warship near the western island in March. A series of punitive measures, including suspension of cross-border trade, came into effect after a multinational probe found the North culpable in May.

Each of the deadly developments came after North Korea extended an olive branch to South Korea in an apparent bid to win aid, agreeing to talks and the resumption of brief reunions of families separated by war.

"A camouflaged peace offensive will be dealt with actively," the Unification Ministry report said, adding that the government will also protest harsh rhetoric critical of Seoul.

The three policy goals in 2011 are to lead North Korea to change in a positive manner; to establish sound inter-Korean relations; and to begin preparations for reunification, the report said.

The ministry also said it will push to bring North Korea to the table to discuss a comprehensive aid-for-denuclearization deal with South Korea, while stepping up monitoring for humanitarian aid.

samkim@yna.co.kr
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