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S. Korea voices regret over N.K.'s comment on frayed inter-Korean ties

All News 11:56 January 13, 2017

SEOUL, Jan. 13 (Yonhap) -- South Korea on Friday expressed regrets over North Korea's move to pass the buck to Seoul for the frayed inter-Korean ties, saying that Pyongyang should first give up nuclear weapons if it hopes to improve relations.

North Korea's Consultative Council for National Reconciliation said Thursday that South Korea is responsible for the frozen inter-Korean relations as its "confrontation racket and war frenzy" spiked tensions on the divided peninsula.

"(South Korea) should immediately respond to the North's patriotic proposal for mending the inter-Korean relations and opening an avenue to independent reunification," a spokesman at the council said in a statement carried by the North's Korean Central News Agency.

Seoul's unification ministry voiced regret that North Korea is waging a propaganda campaign while shifting the responsibility for the current state of affairs onto the Seoul government.

"North Korea's reckless nuclear weapons development poses a threat to peace on the Korean Peninsula and hinders an improvement of the inter-Korean relations," Jeong Joon-hee, ministry spokesman, told a regular press briefing.

"The North should walk on the path toward denuclearization if it seriously wants to improve the Seoul-Pyongyang ties and move toward unification," he said.

North Korean leader Kim Jong-un said in his New Year's address that the country has entered the final stage of its preparations to test fire an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM).

During the speech, Kim also blamed South Korea for the strained inter-Korean ties, calling on Seoul to respond to his country's efforts to ease tensions on the divided peninsula.

North Korea may make surprise proposals to South Korea this year including reunions of separated families in a bid to break up the united international sanctions front, a report issued by the Korea Institute for National Unification showed.

The report said that the North would seek to improve inter-Korean ties by taking advantage of political transitions in South Korea if an earlier-than-expected presidential election takes place this year. South Korea's Constitutional Court is currently in the process of reviewing President Park Geun-hye's impeachment case.

Meanwhile, the ministry said that more information is needed to confirm a possible outbreak of bird flu in North Korea.

South Korean online media outlet DailyNK said Thursday that the outbreak of the avian influenza (AI) was reported in North Korea's central and west South Pyongan Province.

"At the current stage, the government is not considering providing support to North Korea (if the outbreak is confirmed)," Jeong added.

sooyeon@yna.co.kr
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