(ATTN: UPDATES with foreign ministry's remarks in paras 10-11)
SEOUL, April 5 (Yonhap) -- South Korea on Tuesday dismissed North Korea's thinly veiled call for dialogue, reiterating that the communist state must immediately stop its provocative acts and rhetoric, and take "sincere" efforts toward denuclearization.
On Sunday, Pyongyang mentioned the need for "negotiations" for the first time since the U.N. Security Council (UNSC) adopted a new sanctions resolution early last month to punish the unruly regime for its nuclear test in January and long-range rocket launch in February.
"We urge North Korea to stop its provocations and threats immediately and take a path toward denuclearization with sincerity based on the realization that denuclearization is the only choice (it should make)," an official at Seoul's Foreign Ministry told Yonhap News Agency on the condition of anonymity.
"As long as the North refuses to show its willingness to denuclearize and shuns any change, pressure by us and the rest of the world will continue," he added, pointing out that the international community, "with a united voice," is calling on the North to make good on its past denuclearization commitments.
A unification ministry official also issued a similar statement, stressing that the international community will continue to put pressure on the North to give up its nuke arsenal.
The North's powerful National Defense Commission said Sunday that stability should be prioritized rather than the enforcement of "unilateral sanctions," and that the "fundamental solution" can be formulated through negotiations rather than "reckless military pressure."
Observers said that the North's statement reflects its growing fears about the impact of the international or standalone sanctions that the UNSC and other countries, such as the United States and South Korea, have imposed.
The latest package of UNSC sanctions includes the mandatory inspection of all cargo going into and out of the impoverished state and a ban on iron and coal, a crucial source of hard currency for the regime. The sanctions resolution also bans jet oil supplies to the North, which observers say will impede the North's aerial training and operations.
In addition to the international sanctions, individual sanctions imposed by the South, the U.S. and other nations, have added to the growing pressure on the North to renounce its nuclear ambitions.
As for the enforcement of the UNSC sanctions over the past month, the Foreign Ministry said that "visible progress" has emerged.
The ministry referred to the progress in international efforts to ban the entry of ships belonging to a blacklisted North Korean firm, strengthening of inspections on North Korean cargo and deportation of North Korean officials engaged in illicit activities, among other things.
Pyongyang's apparent overture for talks also came as Beijing, its major ally and patron, continues to demand that Seoul and Washington consider a "dual-track" approach under which talks on denuclearization and a peace treaty proceed simultaneously.
Seoul and Washington have shown reluctance towards the approach, stressing that their top priority remains denuclearizing the North. Seoul, in particular, claims that talk of a peace treaty would divert attention away from the denuclearization issue, and that it is not the time for talks but pressure to deter further Pyongyang provocations.
Meanwhile, the Foreign Ministry dismissed speculation that there is a subtle difference between Seoul and Washington over their approach to the communist state.
Seoul has argued that it is not the time for talks with the North. But during a seminar in Washington on Monday, U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Daniel Russel raised the possibility of the resumption of the long-stalled six-party talks involving the two Koreas, the U.S., China, Japan and Russia.
Russel said that the talks can resume on the premise that the North freezes its nuclear program, verifies the freeze and allows the International Atomic Energy Agency to inspect its nuclear facilities.
"South Korea and the U.S. have maintained the consistent position that denuclearization remains a top priority," said the ministry's spokesman Cho June-hyuck during a regular press briefing.
"We believe Assistant Secretary Russel mentioned (the possibility of talks with the North) as a way to explain in general how North Korea can make sincere efforts toward its denuclearization."
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