South Korea says open to talks after North call

The comments came two days after the North, which wants to be recognised as a nuclear power, called for an end to confrontation.

South Korea says open to talks after North call

South Korea said on Monday it was open to dialogue with Pyongyang, as the U.S. envoy for North Korea prepared to travel to the region to discuss how to reduce tensions.

The comments came two days after the North, which wants to be recognised as a nuclear power, called for an end to confrontation, urging dialogue after one of the most violent years on the divided peninsula since the 1950-53 Korean War.

North Korea began 2011 with calls for improved relations with South Korea after a year of tensions marked by the first deadly attack on a civilian area since the war.

"Confrontation between North and South should be defused as early as possible," a joint New Year editorial of three leading North Korean state newspapers said on Saturday.

"Dialogue and cooperation should be promoted proactively," it said.

Relations plunged after the North shelled a border island in November, killing four people, including two civilians.

The South has since staged a series of military exercises, including a live-fire drill on December 20 on the island but the North did not follow through with threats of a new and deadlier attack.

The editorial, which North Koreans are obliged to read, said: "This year we should launch a more determined campaign to improve inter-Korean relations.

"Active efforts should be made to create an atmosphere of dialogue and cooperation between North and South by placing the common interests of the nation above anything else."

The editorial, which was carried by the North's official news agency, also reiterated that Pyongyang, whose nuclear drive is the subject of currently stalled six-party talks, is committed to denuclearisation.

But in a reference to South Korean military drills that have sometimes included the United States, the newspapers warned: "It is imperative to check the North-targeted war exercises and arms build-up of the bellicose forces at home and abroad that seriously threaten national security and peace."

"US envoy visit"

Some analysts said that despite doubts any meeting would be soon, momentum does seems to be building for a possible resumption of long-postponed six-party talks between the two Koreas, China, Japan, Russia and the United States.

"I remind the North that the path to peace is still open. The door for dialogue is still open," Lee said. But he added: "Nuclear weapons and military adventurism must be discarded.

"In what is a sharp contrast to before, it is South Korea, along with Japan, that's the most sceptical about the six-way process," said Baek Seung-joo of the Korea Institute for Defence Analyses. "But the government recognises that the only realistic channel of dialogue with the North is the six-party talks."

The U.S. envoy responsible for policy toward North Korea, Stephen Bosworth, will visit Seoul on Tuesday to discuss the next steps on the Korean peninsula, the State Department said.

He will fly on to China and Japan this week for further consultations on the North. The U.S. envoy for nuclear talks with the North, Sung Kim, will accompany him to Seoul and Beijing.


Agencies

Last Mod: 03 Ocak 2011, 11:22
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