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Park urges N. Korea to hold sincere talks with S. Korea

All Headlines 17:15 October 17, 2014

By Kim Kwang-tae

MILAN, Oct. 17 (Yonhap) -- South Korean President Park Geun-hye pressed Pyongyang Friday to sincerely come forward for talks with Seoul amid fresh tensions on the Korean Peninsula.

The two Koreas agreed to hold high-level talks between late October and early November during a recent surprise visit to South Korea by a high-powered North Korean delegation.

The North has not responded to Seoul's offer, though it has asked the South to set a date for the talks.

The planned talks raised hopes for a thaw in inter-Korean relations that were quickly dampened by two separate exchanges of fire between the two sides near their tense western sea border and heavily fortified land border.

"North Korea should sincerely come forward for dialogue" with South Korea, Park said at a final session of the Asia-Europe Meeting, known as ASEM.

Park's comments are the latest sign that she is pushing to keep alive momentum for inter-Korean dialogue after months of tensions over a series of missile and rocket launches by North Korea.

Park also called on more than 50 Asian and European leaders to support South Korea's efforts to bring peace to the divided peninsula.

"We can bring forward meaningful changes in North Korea if ASEM members send a clear message to North Korea that the North can receive international aid and investment only if it shows sincerity in addressing its nuclear program and human rights record," Park said.

Last month, Park called on North Korea to improve its human rights conditions in her address to the U.N. General Assembly, in the clearest sign that North Korea's human rights situation is a priority in dealing with the communist country.

North Korea has long been accused of grave human rights abuses, ranging from holding hundreds of thousands of political prisoners in concentration camps to committing torture and carrying out public executions.

Still, the North has flatly denied accusations of rights abuses, describing them as a U.S.-led attempt to topple its regime. It has claimed it has the world's most advantageous human rights system and policies.

Also Friday, she reiterated her calls for the creation of a park inside the military buffer zone that separates the two Koreas as part of efforts to bring peace to the peninsula.

Park's pet project requires cooperation from North Korea, as well as the U.S.-led United Nations Command, which oversees the armistice that ended the 1950-53 Korean War.

The North has publicly rejected the project.

Also Friday, Park was to fly Rome for talks with Pope Francis and Italian President Giorgio Napolitano and Prime Minister Matteo Renzi before returning home.


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