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(LEAD) N. Korea turns down S. Korea's offer to hold joint celebration for independence uprising

North Korea 16:46 February 21, 2019

(ATTN: RECASTS headline and throughout with unification ministry's announcement)

SEOUL, Feb. 21 (Yonhap) -- North Korea on Thursday turned down South Korea's offer to hold joint events celebrating the upcoming centennial of the March 1 Independence Movement against Japan's colonial rule, the unification ministry said.

"We have been in consultations to make the event take place as best we could, but the North officially notified us today that it would be difficult to jointly celebrate the March 1 Independence Movement," the ministry said.

The North explained that circumstances do not allow it to arrange such an event with South Korea but did not specify the reasons, the ministry said.

South Korea earlier proposed jointly celebrating the anniversary of the March 1, 1919 Independence Movement against Japan, which ruled the Korean Peninsula from 1910-1945. The North had not responded to the offer for weeks.

South Korean President Moon Jae-in and North Korean leader Kim agreed in their September summit to mark the anniversary together.

There has been speculation that the North might not have enough time and leeway to arrange such an event as it should focus on preparing for next week's summit between its leader Kim Jong-un and U.S. President Donald Trump.

It has also been reported that the two Koreas' different views on the government-in-exile during Japan's colonial rule would make it hard for them to hold such a joint celebration.

South Korea bases its roots on the 1919 establishment of the government-in-exile in Shanghai, China. North Korea does not recognize it as a de facto government for Korea during Japan's rule.

A government source said on condition of anonymity that the two Koreas shared the view that such a difference in historical interpretations should be sufficiently discussed, which he said appears to have played a role in making the decision not to hold the event this year.


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