President Park Geun-hye urged officials on Monday to create an environment to allow North Korea to take part in proposed inter-Korean talks and start negotiations to improve ties.
“To have any form of dialogue, I wish to come up with conditions that will make North Korea respond and begin negotiations,” Park said at a joint briefing by the ministries of defense, foreign affairs and unification.
Seoul and Pyongyang should start a dialogue as soon as possible to promote cooperation and exchanges aimed at laying the foundations for unification, Park said, stressing that this year marks the 70th anniversary of the division of Korea.
North Korea has not yet responded to South Korea’s proposal to hold ministerial talks in January to discuss contentious issues including the reunion of families separated by the 1950-53 Korean War. Though North Korean leader Kim Jong-un said he was open to holding talks with the South in his New Year’s address, Pyongyang has refrained from giving a straight answer. The North has, instead, urged Seoul to stop defectors from sending anti-North Korean leaflets and halt a set of annual U.S.-Korea military drills. The two Koreas held high-level talks last February and had agreed to resume talks late last year. But the North reversed its decision, criticizing the leafleting campaign by groups of South Korean civilians and defectors.
President Park Geun-hye attends a joint ministerial briefing session on 2015 policies on inter-Korean relations, foreign affairs and defense at Cheong Wa Dae on Monday. Participants included Prime Minister Chung Hong-won (left) and Unification Minister Ryoo Kihl-jae (third from left). (Yonhap)
Later in the afternoon, Unification Minister Ryoo Kihl-jae said that he understood Park’s call for creating an environment for North Korea to step forward to be an expression of her frustration that no progress was being made to bring about the talks.
“I understand that it was delivered in a way to express that (the president) was feeling stuck since there has been no headway on the inter-Korean talks, and was urging officials to make more efforts (to resume talks),” he said.
The minister at the briefing at Cheong Wa Dae said the government would establish a legal and institutional framework, and hold joint economic and cultural events with the North. The Defense Ministry said it would apply the nation’s information and communication technologies to effectively deal with evolving North Korean threats. On the diplomatic front, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs vowed to seek closer cooperation with the U.S., China, Russia and Japan to pressure North Korea to give up its nuclear ambitions.
At the session, the South Korean president also urged North Korea to start negotiations to allow members of separated families to meet again by separating the issue from political and ideological matters.
“The most important thing is to realize long-cherished dreams of old members of separated families,” Park said. “I hope (North Korea) sees this as a way to guarantee people’s basic rights apart from political and ideological views and works together to come up with solutions.”
Park also urged the South Korean military to reinforce its defense capacity and firmly maintain its alliance with the United States in order to deal with North Korea’s asymmetric threats, including its cyberattacks.
“I want to stress that we need to prepare for the unification of the two Koreas based on firm awareness of national security,” she said. “I hope for the South Korean military to maintain a strong military readiness to protect the people and the national security from any form of threat and provocation by North Korea,” she added.
Park’s comment on North Korea’s cyberattacks came after the U.S. imposed fresh sanctions on it early this month over its alleged hacking of Sony Pictures for releasing the film “The Interview.” The movie is a comedy about a plot to assassinate North Korean leader Kim Jong-un. Though North Korea has denied its involvement, Park said last week that the sanctions against Pyongyang were “appropriate.”
By Cho Chung-un (email@example.com)