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N. Korea proposes dialogue with Seoul in official letter

 North Korea has proposed holding talks with South Korea in an official letter, a government official said Monday, after Seoul rejected earlier proposals offered in what officials here called a "unilateral announcement."

   In its letter to the Seoul government, Pyongyang again urged early resumption of government-level talks as well as Red Cross dialogue it earlier said will help resume suspended tours to the North's Mount Kumgang, according to the official from Seoul's Unification Ministry.

   North Korea on Saturday urged the resumption of talks in a statement issued by its Committee for the Peaceful Reunification of Korea.

   The South Korean ministry said it will not even consider the proposal unless Pyongyang offers it in an official message.

   "We are checking whether North Korea has sent official message to our government or the military. Without these, the proposal is not an official offer for dialogue, but just a unilateral announcement," a ministry official had said at the time.

   In its letter to the Unification Ministry, in charge of inter-Korean affairs, North Korea proposed holding working-level government talks in its border town of Kaesong on Jan. 27 to discuss the venue and date for higher level government talks to be held in the future, the ministry official said, asking not to be identified.

   The North also proposed holding Red Cross talks on Feb. 1 in Munsan, a South Korean city just across the border from Kaesong.

   In its earlier proposals, the North noted that the Red Cross talks should be aimed at resuming tours to the North Korean resort in Mount Kumgang and other humanitarian issues between the divided Koreas.

   The tours to Mount Kumgang, previously an important source of hard currency for the impoverished North, have been suspended since
2008 when a female South Korean tourist was shot dead.