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S. Korea remains suspicious of N. Korea's intention for talks: minister

All Headlines 16:09 January 25, 2011

By Sam Kim

SEOUL, Jan. 25 (Yonhap) -- North Korea remains questionable in its push for talks with South Korea, a senior official here said Tuesday, pressing Pyongyang to follow through with concessions good enough to set the tone for genuine improvement in their relations.

South and North Korea are expected to hold their first military talks in several months after the South accepted a proposal last week from the North to meet over a series of armed provocations blamed on the communist country.

Unification Minister Hyun In-taek stressed in a speech in Seoul that the acceptance of the proposal for dialogue does not mean that the South has begun to trust the North.

"Whether the North Korean authorities are being responsible or their proposal is sincere remains unclear," he said, calling on Pyongyang to take steps that the South can accept over the provocations.

North Korea is accused of sinking a South Korean warship in March last year, killing 46 sailors. In November, the North bombarded a South Korean border island, killing two civilians and two marines.

Hyun said "responsible measures" that can account for these tragedies, along with the reaffirmation of a pledge to denuclearize under a multinational agreement, must be displayed by the North, or else the inter-Korean relations "will never move forward."

"The pace and range of inter-Korean talks in the future is completely up to North Korea's attitude," Hyun said.

South Korean officials and analysts believe the North is stepping up its peace offensive as it struggles to win aid and curb its deepening economic hardships.

North Korea is one of the world's poorest countries and continues to engineer a hereditary power succession under the banner of songun, or military-first, policy. Tension on the peninsula rose to the highest level in more than a decade after the North shelled the South Korean island of Yeonpyeong on Nov. 23.

North Korea has also raised alarm by unveiling an uranium enrichment plant -- a second track to building nuclear arms -- appealing for the restart of aid-for-dismantlement six-party talks, which also include the U.S, China, Japan, Russia and South Korea.

Senior U.S., Chinese and Japanese officials say the key to resuming international dialogue over the North's nuclear programs is through the restart of talks between the two Koreas, which remain divided by a heavily armed border after the 1950-53 Korean War ended in a truce.


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