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(2nd LD) S. Korea outlines plan to push N. Korea to drop nuclear arms, open up

All Headlines 17:32 December 29, 2010

(ATTN: RECASTS headline, lead; RESTRUCTURES; ADDS background, details throughout)
By Sam Kim

SEOUL, Dec. 29 (Yonhap) -- South Korea will press North Korea next year to denuclearize permanently, drop its obsessive militarism and open up to the outside world for what could be a Chinese-style reform, Seoul's point man on Pyongyang said Wednesday.

The goals outlined by Unification Minister Hyun In-taek ahead of the new year came as President Lee Myung-bak said the stalled six-party talks were the only viable way to denuclearize North Korea.

Holding a press conference in Seoul, Hyun acknowledged the "need to restore inter-Korean dialogue," but demanded that the North first allow its nuclear arms programs and other thorny political and humanitarian issues to be discussed in talks with the South.

"(South Korea) will make various efforts to press North Korea to move toward denuclearization and peace in lieu of nuclear arms, open up rather than be isolated, and prioritize the living of its people over the songun (military-first) line," Hyun said.

"I am not saying North Korea should open up by all means possible. I believe it would be right if North Korea could develop by opening up through at least a Chinese-style model," he said.

Citing the urgency of the issue, Hyun said Seoul will "aggressively try to bring about the irreversible denuclearization in North Korea" next year. He did not elaborate, but in an earlier report to President Lee, Hyun's ministry said it would mix dialogue and pressure to resolve key issues between the sides.

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 the resumption of 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 step up its protest of harsh rhetoric critical of Seoul.

Hyun said North Koreans are no longer as isolated from the outside world as in the past, dubbing it a change for the better and urging the communist regime to improve its human rights records.

"(South Korea) will continue to try to heighten the quality of life for North Koreans and allow them to enjoy basic rights," Hyun said, demanding that the North try to ensure outside humanitarian assistance is not diverted to the military.

"If transparency is guaranteed, drastic humanitarian aid (from the South) may be possible," Hyun said.

Since the attack on Yeonpyeong, South Korea has tightened even the most urgently needed aid to North Korea, which had heavily depended on the South for rice and fertilizer for years before Lee took power in 2008 with a disciplinary stance on Pyongyang.

Hyun also said his government will push to bring North Korea to the table to discuss a comprehensive aid-for-denuclearization deal with South Korea, a step that Pyongyang has flatly refused.

The six-party talks include the two Koreas, the U.S., Japan, Russia and China. Lee said earlier in the day that the international community should try to denuclearize the North ahead of 2012, which Pyongyang has designated as the year to become "strong and prosperous" in both military might and economy.

samkim@yna.co.kr
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