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S. Korea proposes preliminary military talks with N. Korea on Feb. 11

South Korea said Wednesday it has proposed holding working-level military talks with North Korea on Feb. 11, in what would be their first dialogue since the North's deadly bombardment of a border island in November.

The proposed inter-Korean talks, which would be held at the border truce village of Panmunjom, are aimed at setting the time, place and agenda for a higher-level military meeting, said Kim Min-seok, a spokesman at the South's defense ministry.

Kim said North Korea has yet to respond.

The South's proposal came less than a week after North Korea suggested that the two sides hold the working-level meeting between defense officials, as well as talks between their defense chiefs, to "resolve pending military issues."

The defense ministry has said it is willing to hold ministerial-level talks, but only if North Korea takes responsibility for the shelling of Yeonpyeong Island and the torpedoing of a warship last March.

South Korean defense officials have also insisted that North Korea apologize for the two attacks that killed a total of 50 South Koreans and promise not to provoke the South if the ministerial-level talks take place.

"Our government's stance is clear. North Korea must take responsible measures to account for the attacks on the Cheonan warship and Yeonpyeong Island, apologize for the attacks and pledged not to provoke again," Kim said. 
"If North Korea refuses to do so, the ministerial-level talks won't be held."

In the proposal last week, the North said it wants to discuss its "viewpoint" on the attacks, according to a report by its state media, the Korean Central News Agency.

North Korea has so far denied any involvement in the torpedo attack of the Cheonan warship that killed 46 sailors, although a multinational investigation confirmed the North's culpability.

Pyongyang has also claimed that its artillery attack on Yeonpyeong Island, in which two marines and two civilians died, was legitimate because the South provoked first by holding a life-fire drill near the island with some shells falling on the North's side.

(Yonhap News)