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Pyongyang blames Seoul for shunning inter-Korean dialogue

All Headlines 22:07 April 23, 2011

SEOUL, April 23 (Yonhap) -- North Korea accused South Korea Saturday of deliberately shunning dialogue for rapprochement and warned of "serious consequences."

Inter-Korean relations have never been smooth since President Lee Myung-bak's conservative government took office in Seoul three years ago. Their ties further deteriorated after North Korea unleashed deadly military attacks last year, killing a total of 50 people, mostly soldiers.

North Korea has recently made a series of dialogue overtures but South Korea maintains that its communist neighbor should first apologize for the deadly military provocations first.

On Saturday, the North's Committee for the Peaceful Reunification of the Fatherland, a semi-official organ handling inter-Korean relations, issued a statement denouncing Seoul for "denying dialogue and driving the inter-Korean relations to catastrophe."

The statement came a day after South Korea rejected North Korea's proposal for Red Cross talks on the fate of four of its citizens who had defected to South Korea.

The four were among 31 North Koreans who strayed into South Korean waters aboard a troubled fishing boat in February. Twenty-seven of them were returned but the four others chose to stay in South Korea.

North Korea is demanding the return of the four "defectors," accusing Seoul of holding them as hostages.

The North also criticized South Korea for failing to send government officials to a meeting of geology experts from both sides who had met twice earlier this year to discuss the risk of a potential volcanic eruption at a North Korean mountain that abuts China.

South Korea's delegation to the volcano talks was all comprised of civilian experts, while North Korea included government officials in its team.

The North's committee, in its statement, alleged that South Korea had sent only "personages of a non-governmental organization bereft of any real mandate and responsibility," adding these personnel had "a very insincere attitude" at the table.

South Korean officials suspect that North Korea dialogue overtures are aimed at exacting badly needed food aid.

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