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Blue House cautious on N.K. ties

Despite tension abating on the Korean peninsula after breakthrough talks earlier in the week, Cheong Wa Dae said Thursday it would cautiously deal with North Korea over recent agreements on bilateral cooperation, citing Pyongyang’s volatility.

Presidential spokesman Min Kyung-wook told reporters that the negotiation between the two Koreas is not over, but has just begun, noting that there is a wide consensus among the officials that Seoul should first watch to see whether Pyongyang keeps its end of the bargain.

The remarks came as speculations grew that the two Koreas would open discussion on contentious issues including the inter-Korean summit and the lifting of Seoul’s economic sanctions against Pyongyang.

Amid lingering doubts on North Korea‘s attitude, a senior North Korean official made a reconciliatory remark that Pyongyang would make efforts to improve the inter-Korean ties based on a breakthrough deal reached Tuesday.

“Based on the spirit of the urgent high-level contact between the North and South, we will work actively to improve North-South relations, in line with the aim and wish of our people,” said Kim Yang-gon, director of the North’s United Front Department through the North’s Korean Central Broadcasting Station. 

An anchorwoman with the North`s Korean Central Broadcasting Station delivers remarks by Kim Yang-gon, director of the North’s United Front Department, on inter-Korean ties on Thursday. (Yonhap)
An anchorwoman with the North`s Korean Central Broadcasting Station delivers remarks by Kim Yang-gon, director of the North’s United Front Department, on inter-Korean ties on Thursday. (Yonhap)

The two Koreas reached a dramatic deal with the North expressing “regret” over the Aug. 4 land mine attack that injured two South Korean soldiers and the South agreeing to stop the propaganda broadcasts that had been restarted in retaliation. The two sides also agreed to hold another round of talks in Seoul or Pyongyang in the near future. Kim was one of the two North Korean officials that took part in the high-level talks.

Cautioning against blind optimism, another presidential official said on condition of anonymity that the first test for North Korea’s sincerity would be the arrangement of the reunions of separated families next month.

“For the time being, we have to solve the issue of the reunions of separated families first,” the official was quoted as saying by Yonhap News Agency.

“There are not just a couple of issues that need to be solved to improve the relations, and we need to tackle them one by one,” the official said, adding that it is premature to talk about lifting the May 24 sanctions.

The comment came a day after the Unification Ministry said it was open to discussing the sanctions that the North has been seeking to be lifted. The ministry later explained that Seoul’s position remains unchanged, stressing that Pyongyang should take responsible measures first.

On May 24, 2010, the South Korean government banned all inter-Korean cooperation, except for those within the joint industrial complex in the border town of Gaeseong. The measures were taken in retaliation for Pyongyang’s sinking of the South Korean warship Cheonan in March of that year.

Meanwhile, Cheong Wa Dae convened a National Security Council session to discuss follow-up measures on the agreements. The meeting, presided over by Park’s top security officer Kim Kwan-jin, was the first session held after the marathon talks. The two Koreas agreed to defuse military tensions and take a series of measures, including increased civilian exchanges between the sides.

The members of the presidential security council intensively discussed the planned reunions of separated families on when the meeting should be taken and how, Park’s spokesman said.

The two Koreas are set to hold Red Cross talks early next month to stage the reunions around the Chuseok holidays beginning Sept. 27.

However, it remains unclear whether or not North Korea will keep its word, observers say, listing previous cases of the reclusive regime canceling events in unilateral decisions.

Pyongyang had agreed to hold a reunion event for six days starting Sept. 25, 2013, accepting Park’s proposal delivered during a speech on the Aug. 15 Liberation Day holiday. But the North canceled the event in a last-minute decision on Sept. 21.

Speculation is also growing that the reclusive state might take another provocative action around Oct. 10 to mark the 70th anniversary of the foundation of its ruling Workers’ Party.

By Cho Chung-un (

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