South Korea has no intention to achieve unification by absorbing the North and is keeping up efforts to resume inter-Korean dialogue, Seoul’s prime minister said Friday, as tensions linger after the breakdown of inter-Korean dialogue earlier this month.
“The (South Korean) government does not regard North Korea as a target of absorption,” Prime Minister Kim Hwang-sik said during the parliament’s questioning of the government Friday. “We are continuing efforts to talk as dialogue is necessary to persuade North Korea to change.”
But the government is not considering the option of holding a summit of the leaders of the two Koreas “at the moment,” Kim said, adding “talks should only be held when an actual progress can be expected.”
Kim’s comments come as the two Koreas failed to make much progress during their defense talks earlier this month after the North Korean delegation abruptly left the negotiations. The delegation said they no longer wanted to talk about Pyongyang’s two deadly attacks against Seoul last year, a precondition South Korea had set for the inter-Korean talks to move forward.
Partners in the stalled multinational denuclearization talks with North Korea claim the communist state must first solve issues with Seoul to rejoin the larger-scale talks that will secure it outside assistance of food and fuel. The six-nation talks involving the two Koreas, the U.S., China, Russia and Japan have been stalled since December 2008.
South Korea has been reluctant to open talks or do any favors for its nuclear-armed rival until it comes clean on the two attacks that killed dozens of sailors as well as two civilians.
During Friday’s parliamentary session, liberal opposition parties called on the conservative Lee Myung-bak government to increase efforts to mend ties with Pyongyang, while his Grand National Party called for stronger defense.
“Mounting pressure upon North Korea does not change the country. It only intensifies its nuclear ambitions,” said Lee Nak-yeon of the main opposition Democratic Party. “The government should not wait, but begin to talk.”
Some ruling party legislators suggested that Seoul should also possess nuclear weapons to “effectively pressure” North Korea, as well as its allies China and Russia.
“We so far do not have an independent, affective measure to protect ourselves,” said GNP lawmaker Won Yoo-chul.
Prime Minister Kim dismissed the suggestion saying “maintaining a denuclearized Korean Peninsula” is the Seoul government’s principle.
“It would be wiser to denuclearize North Korea via international cooperation than to jump into competition to develop nuclear arms,” he said.
Foreign Minister Kim Sung-hwan spoke along the same line during the session, saying China has “a solid belief” that North Korea must denuclearize.
“All partners of the six-party talks are together on this issue,” he said.
Meanwhile, Prime Minister Kim declined to answer lawmakers’ questions regarding Seoul spy agency’s alleged trespassing into a hotel room of Indonesian envoys, citing ongoing investigations.
“I feel it would be inappropriate to make remarks on an issue that is still being investigated,” he said.
South Korea’s National Intelligence Service came under fire recently after local reports revealed that three of its agents had been caught after breaking into the room for intelligence gathering purposes. The agents are believed to have been attempting to steal classified information related to Indonesia’s planned arms trade with South Korea, according to the reports.
The Indonesian Embassy here has asked the Foreign Ministry to verify the reports, but has not made an official compliant over the issue.
The NIS has neither denied nor admitted the wrongdoing so far.
Opposition parties have been demanding the NIS chief to step down over the issue.
“This is a national disgrace. Someone must take the responsibility for the case,” said Rep. Park Joo-sun of the main opposition party.
By Shin Hae-in (firstname.lastname@example.org)