Pyongyang slams Seoul's rejection of dialogue
SEOUL/WASHINGTON ― The U.S. affirmed Monday that Pyongyang should take concrete steps to renounce provocations if it is committed to “constructive” dialogue.
“There are still things that North Korea must do to make it clear that that kind of dialogue would be productive,” said State Department spokesman Philip Crowley.
“I would say that first and foremost, if North Korea makes a public pledge not to attack South Korea or undertake further provocations that threaten South Korea, that would be a significant step to improve the environment, and it would be one among many steps that North Korea could take that would convince South Korea that dialogue would be constructive.”
His remarks sided with Seoul’s position on a recent series of Pyongyang’s dialogue overtures.
North Korea on Monday proposed a meeting of working-level officials later this month to prepare for a higher-level, possibly minister-level dialogue.
Suspicious of the North’s history of creating tensions to win economic aid, South Korea proposed that the sides hold talks to discuss the North’s shelling of Yeonpyeong Island and the torpedoing of the Cheonan, which killed 50 people, including two civilians.
“If there is to be any sincere dialogue between the South and the North, there must first be the North’s acknowledgment of its sinking of the Cheonan and attack on Yeonpyeong island, as well as confirmation of its commitment to denuclearization,” a spokesman for Seoul’s Unification Ministry said. “We propose holding a meeting between the governments of the South and the North to this end.”
North Korea on Tuesday criticized South Korea’s rejection of its latest proposal for dialogue and insisted it is sincere in trying to mend relations after months of tensions.
North Korea’s government newspaper Minju Josun, in an editorial carried by its official news agency, denounced Seoul for “dampening hopes for improved relations.”
“Those who question our sincerity need to read our statement (offering dialogue) thoroughly. It offered extensive talks and negotiations with no conditions attached,” said the editorial.
“Whether we have sincerity or not will be confirmed once we sit down face to face,” the newspaper said, urging Seoul to “immediately stop libels and provocations” toward Pyongyang.
Seoul, Washington and Tokyo insist that Pyongyang apologize for the provocations before any resumption of bilateral or multilateral talks.
China, the North’s staunchest ally, has called for an early, unconditional resumption of the six-party talks that also involve the two Koreas, the U.S., Japan and Russia.
“Not surprisingly, South Korea has been cautious in its response to the new North Korean attitude after last year’s confrontations,” Charles Armstrong, director of the Center for Korean Research at Columbia University, said. “Still, the situation is vastly better than just a few months ago. The key parties may be ready to resume dialogue after Chinese President Hu Jintao’s visit to the U.S., just in time for the Lunar New Year.”
(From news reports)