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(LEAD) N. Korea says it has nothing to say on S. Korea's proposal for volcano talks

All Headlines 17:37 May 09, 2011

(ATTN: RECASTS headline and lead; UPDATES with North Korea's blunt reaction in paras 1-2, 6)

SEOUL, May 9 (Yonhap) -- North Korea said Monday it has nothing to report to South Korea regarding their follow-up talks to discuss a joint study on potential volcanic activity on a North Korean mountain, casting doubt over whether the two sides will meet anytime soon.

The North made the blunt response to South Korea through the Red Cross telephone, a key communication channel the two rival Koreas operate in their border village of Panmunjom, according to Seoul's Unification Ministry in charge of relations with Pyongyang.

The development comes amid no signs of progress to break a year-long deadlock over the North's two deadly attacks on the South last year that killed 50 South Koreans.

Pyongyang has so far rejected Seoul's demand that the North apologize for the two provocations, which plunged inter-Korean ties to their lowest points in decades.

The two Koreas agreed to hold expert-led talks in May and to hold an on-site survey of Mount Paekdu in mid-June during their second round of experts' meetings in April. The North proposed the rare meeting on potential volcanic activity in March, less than a week after a massive earthquake and tsunami devastated Japan.

South Korea has proposed holding expert-level talks with North Korea from May 11 to 13 in either Seoul or Pyongyang as a follow-up measure to the April agreement, but the North told the South Monday that it has nothing to say over Seoul's proposal, according to the Unification Ministry.

The mountain, the highest on the Korean Peninsula, holds significance for both countries. Pyongyang claims it as the birthplace of its leader, Kim Jong-il, while the 2,750-meter-high peak is mentioned in the national anthem of the South.

Mount Paekdu has been dormant since its last eruption in 1903, but experts have warned that it may still have an active core, citing topographical signs and satellite images.

The North has also remained silent on its recent proposal for inter-Korean cooperation in dealing with the naming feud over the body of water between the Korean Peninsula and Japan.

In response, Seoul has quickly suggested that the two Koreas hold a meeting in mid-May in the North Korean border town of Kaesong to discuss the agenda, though the North has not responded to Seoul's proposal.

The two Koreas and Japan have been at odds for decades over how to designate the sea between the countries, which the Koreas refer to as the "East Sea," while Japan calls it the "Sea of Japan."

Japan ruled the Korean Peninsula as a colony from 1910 to 1945.
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