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Park says S. Korea's strong defense capabilities led to N. Korea's dialogue proposal

All Headlines 15:32 June 07, 2013

(ATTN: COMBINES story slugged Koreas-talks)

SEOUL, June 7 (Yonhap) -- South Korean President Park Geun-hye called Friday for strong defense capabilities, saying North Korea's recent proposal of official inter-Korean talks is the product of Seoul maintaining firm deterrence against Pyongyang's threats and provocations.

Park made the remark during a lunch meeting with top military commanders, a day after North Korea made a surprise offer to hold government-level talks with the South in a dramatic about-face by a regime that has made near-daily war threats for several months while refusing any official talks with Seoul.

"Yesterday, North Korea proposed inter-Korean government-to-government talks that it has opposed so far," Park said during the meeting. "This was possible because of all the hard work of our troops and commanders who have maintained a firm security posture."

Park reiterated that she is ready to push actively for her "Korean Peninsula trust process" policy, a vision that calls for dialogue and exchanges with the communist nation so as to build trust and reduce tensions, if Pyongyang gives up its nuclear programs.

"I shared the view of this with President Barack Obama during the Korea-U.S. summit and if I visit China late this month, I will discuss this with President Xi Jinping too," she said.

Park said the most basic element for the trustpolitik is "strong national defense capabilities."

"If national security is shaken, neither dialogue nor peace can stand, just like we cannot build buildings on a shaking foundation," she said. "Only when we have perfect military readiness and deterrence against North Korea can we make the North not dare think of provocations, and induce a genuine change."

South Korea has immediately accepted the North's dialogue offer and proposed to hold a Cabinet minister-level meeting in Seoul next Wednesday. But on Friday, Pyongyang made a counter-proposal that the sides hold working-level talks first before a Cabinet-level meeting.

Pyongyang's surprise offer came the day before Chinese President Xi Jinping arrived in the U.S. for a two-day summit with U.S. President Barack Obama, where North Korea is expected to be a key topic. Analysts say Pyongyang could be trying to project a softer image ahead of the meeting.

"Through government-level talks, we hope to build the groundwork for trust and set inter-Korean relations in a desirable direction," senior presidential press secretary Lee Jung-hyun told reporters.

The South's suggestion of Seoul as the venue for the possible meeting raised speculation that North Korean officials could pay a visit to President Park Geun-hye if the proposed talks take place. But Lee declined to comment on such a possibility.

The North's dialogue offer was seen as a victory for Park's "trust process" policy. Under the policy, she has pledged to stick to the principle of dealing sternly with North Korean threats and provocations while at the same time leaving the door open for dialogue.

jschang@yna.co.kr
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