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S. Korea urges N. Korea to clarify stance on family reunions

All Headlines 11:34 January 29, 2014

SEOUL, Jan. 29 (Yonhap) -- South Korea pressed North Korea Wednesday to clarify its position on reunions for families separated by the 1950-53 Korean War amid Pyongyang's silence on Seoul's offer.

South Korea called on the North to quickly respond to Seoul's proposal that the rival Koreas stage reunions at Mount Kumgang, a scenic mountain resort on North Korea's east coast, from Feb. 17 to Feb. 22.

South Korea expressed regret over the North's unclear attitude to the proposed reunions in a Red Cross message sent to the North's counterpart earlier in the day, according to the South's Unification Ministry handling inter-Korean affairs.

On Monday, South Korea proposed holding Red Cross talks with North Korea on Wednesday at the border village of Panmunjom to discuss details of the reunions.

South Korea made the proposal days after the North offered to hold family reunions at a "convenient time" for Seoul in the latest of its conciliatory gestures.

Still, the North has failed to respond to Seoul's offer, casting doubt on whether the reunions can be held as proposed by South Korea.

The North's silence comes as South Korea carried out a live-fire drill on its islands near their western sea border despite North Korea's warning of "grave consequences."

The drill ended Tuesday without clashes with the North. South Korea said the drill is held every two or three months to improve its readiness against any possible provocations by North Korea.

Seoul's move underscored its wariness regarding the North's recent conciliatory overture as Pyongyang has a track record of carrying out provocations after making such gestures toward Seoul.

The overture called for, among other things, the cancellation of Seoul's annual joint military exercises with Washington, which are set to run from late February through April.

Also Wednesday, the North's main newspaper, Rodong Sinmun, repeated the country's demand that Seoul scrap the drills, saying military hostility is a key obstacle to improving inter-Korean relations.

The North claims the military exercises could be a rehearsal for a nuclear war against it. Seoul and Washington have vowed to go ahead with their joint exercises, calling them defensive in nature.

Millions of Koreans remain separated since the Korean War that ended in a cease-fire, not a peace treaty.

Family reunions are a highly emotional issue on the divided Korean Peninsula, as most of the separated family members are in their 70s and 80s and want to see their long-lost relatives before they die.

The divided Koreas have held more than a dozen rounds of reunions since their landmark summit in 2000, bringing together more than 21,700 family members who had not seen each other since the Korean War.


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