(ATTN: UPDATES with more details in paras 10-13; ADDS with information on Kaesong complex in last 4 paras)
SEOUL, April 18 (Yonhap) -- North Korea warned Thursday that South Korea and the United States should immediately halt all hostile actions and further provocations if they want to engage in dialogue and diffuse tensions on the Korean Peninsula.
The North's powerful National Defense Commission and the Committee for the Peaceful Reunification of Korea (CPRK) said sanctions imposed by the U.N. Security Council against the DPRK must be rescinded and on-going nuclear war exercises should be stopped. DPRK stands for the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, the North's official name.
"Fabrications of truth, like blaming the North for the sinking of a South Korean warship in 2010 and recent Internet hacking of financial institutions and media has to be discontinued," the commission's policy department said in a statement.
Dialogue and war cannot exist side-by-side and that Seoul and Washington need to proclaim to the rest of the world that they will never engage in making threats and carry out nuclear war exercises that target the North, it said.
"It is time to withdraw all nuclear war making capabilities from the region and officially proclaim such devices will not be reintroduced (back into South Korea) down the line," said the defense commission.
The CPRK, in charge of conducting dialogue with the South, echoed these views, saying enforcing of sanctions, taking part in measures to compromise the regime and challenging the country's space and nuclear development efforts, all constituted hostile moves and cannot be tolerated.
Introducing sophisticated military hardware into the region will be viewed as provocations, the CPRK said, adding that Seoul in recent days made remarks about the North making right choices that it claimed were impudent.
"If they had a true will to have dialogue, they should have halted all acts of hurting the dignity of the DPRK, and stopped the north-targeted war exercises and smear campaign and given assurance to the nation that they would not resort to such hostile acts in the days ahead," the CPRK's announcement said.
In response, Seoul's Ministry of Unification dismissed the latest rhetoric as nothing out of the ordinary and called them irresponsible. The ministry in charge of conducting talks with the North pointed out that Pyongyang had already rejected calls for dialogue by both South Korea and the United States earlier in the week.
"The North has overlooked or ignored the meaning and intent of talks proposed by Seoul and Washington (once again)," an official said.
He stressed that despite what the North is saying, there is no country on the planet that wants to invade the communist country, so its claims of outside invasion are untrue.
"It is time that the North stop making preposterous allegations and meet its denuclearization obligations," he said. The official added it is highly regretable that the North is blaming the South for inciting tensions.
"The North's launching of a long-range rocket and its latest nuclear test brought about the current situation," the official pointed out.
The two announcements come as the North in recent weeks have upped the ante by claiming it will no longer respect the Armistice Agreement that ended the Korean War (1950-53) and threatened to launch pre-emptive nuclear strikes against South Korea and the United States. However, it has withheld the launch of a long-range missile, raising speculation by some that it is seeking to prevent the escalation of tensions from getting out of control.
Experts said that the North's call for talks, even if preconditioned, may be a sign that Pyongyang may be seeking a compromise once the Foal Eagle exercises come to a halt at the end of the month.
Yang Moo-jin, political science professor at the University of North Korean Studies speculated that once the military drills are concluded, Pyongyang may opt for talks.
"The statements may be a call for Seoul not to provoke them any further until dialogue can begin," he said.
Chang Yong-seok, senior researcher at the Institute for Peace and Unification Studies at Seoul National University said once the military exercises are concluded, a key obstacle for talks will be removed, and that tensions may be lowered if the North gives up it hard-line tactics and considers using talks as a secondary strategy.
"If such developments take place, tension levels may come down and the overall situation could change," the researcher said.
Meanwhile, Seoul again urged the North to recognize the damage it was causing the 123 companies with factories at the Kaesong Industrial Complex and reconsider its actions that have halted all operations at the border town.
There have been reports that South Korean workers are running low on food and other basic necessities. During the day, eight workers returned south, leaving 197 at the complex, with six more to cross over Friday. Of the total, about 50 work for the Kaesong Industrial District Management Committee and public infrastructure facilities at the complex.
Pyongyang, angered by South Korean news reports that it will never stop operations at the complex because of the inflow of cash, banned entry of all South Korean personnel and materials on April 3. This measures was followed by the pull-out of its 53,000 laborers on April 9, that shut down the complex.
South Korean workers and companies are trying to keep people in Kaesong because they fear if everyone pulls out, the North with close the complex completely and even move to confiscate assets.
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